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Horse Racing in Ireland

There are currently 26 racecourses in Ireland who, between them, hold about 380 race meetings each year. The sport currently attracts annual attendances of 1.3 million people. Participants include owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff, Turf Club stewards and officials. Support staff would include Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) officials and various racecourse and other personnel. A sizeable proportion of the participants (owners, stewards and some racecourse personnel) would be unpaid.

Horse racing in Ireland is a very successful sport and presents Ireland in a very good light on the international stage where we compete effectively with the best in the world on a regular basis.

What we do

The Association’s role is to promote the sport of horse racing generally and the specific interests of those who own or operate racecourses (racecourse executives) in a number of different ways as set out hereunder.

Through regular meetings and contact with racecourse executives we advise and assist members regularly on issues relating to the promotion and development of racecourses.

We also interact at a number of levels with various other bodies within the industry in order to further promote and develop the sport within racing. The Association represents its racecourse members on various industry bodies with a view to promoting the interests of racecourses on same. The Chairman of the Association is the automatic nominee of the racecourses on the board of Horse Racing Ireland which is the statutory body through which Government funding for the industry is channelled.

The Association is also represented on the Fixtures Committee which decides on which racecourse each fixture is held. This is done on an annual basis and the Fixtures Committee also decides how cancelled/rescheduled fixtures are to be allocated. Likewise the Association is represented on the Programmes Committee which decides the specific conditions of each race to be run at each fixture (i.e. flat or National Hunt, length of race, type/age of eligible horses, etc).

A representative of the Association also sits on the Pattern Committee which decides the level of top quality races to be staged in Ireland having regard in particular to the European Pattern. This has been a most effective committee and, in recent years, has ensured that Ireland punches above its weight relative to other European countries in terms of the number of black type races (top quality races) run here. This helps to underpin racing in Ireland as being of the highest quality in Europe.

The above committees have executive groups reporting into them and the Chief Executive of the AIR represents the racecourses on those executive groups.

The AIR also has a Marketing Committee that works with other industry bodies on initiatives to promote Irish racing and to help attract larger attendances to our racemeetings.

The Association would, on behalf of its members, meet regularly with representatives of other industry bodies such as owners, trainers, jockeys, Turf Club officials, Horse Racing Ireland, etc with a view to developing initiatives to develop the industry (e.g. owners’ access scheme, provision of dietary requirements for jockeys, racecourse safety issues, etc).

The Association would also deal with other bodies outside the racing industry who may have reason from time to time to interface with the industry or simply with racecourses on any matter. An example of such activity in recent years would be investigations carried out by the Competition Authority into on-course betting, consultants Indecon in relation to reports on the industry commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and the recent consultation process instigated by the Joint Oireachtas Committee looking into proposed legislative changes affecting the horse racing industry.

In addition, the Association would, on behalf of its members, negotiate recommended rates with various parties that provide common services to all tracks (e.g. racecourse doctors, vets, etc) in order to ensure that racecourses operate in the most cost effective manner possible thereby ensuring that racecourses have the maximum amount of funding available to develop their amenities and to improve the raceday experience for those attending – both participants and racegoers alike.

The Chairman of the Association, as provided for in the Horse & Greyhound Racing Act, 2001, also chairs the Media Rights Committee which is a body established under the aforementioned Act to negotiate in relation to all contracts relating to media rights on Irish racecourses. (Under the terms of section 61(2) of the Irish Horseracing Industry Act, 1994 such rights are vested in the executive of the racecourse where the event takes place.) The Chief Executive is involved in the detailed negotiation of such contracts on behalf of the racecourses prior to their approval by the Media Rights Committee and the racecourses themselves in general meeting. Traditionally, the Association has also collected monies from such contracts on behalf of its racecourse members from various organisations with whom contractual arrangements exist and it distributes these funds to the members concerned.

The Association also operates an admission system for all racecourses that is designed specifically to allow accredited individuals obtain free admission to racecourses when entitled while, at the same time, ensuring that income streams from racecourse admissions are protected. Such individuals would include owners with a runner on the day, jockeys, officials, trainers, industry staff, etc. The system is based on the use of bar coded cards (credit card sized) that are given to accredited individuals. These cards are presented at the entrance to the racecourse where they are scanned to confirm the holder’s eligibility. The software underpinning this operation is a bespoke one that has been developed by, and is owned by, the Association. The cost of this system is paid by the Association from its funds.

The Association also organises, on behalf of its members, racecourse commentary services which it provides through a full time employee and some third party commentators. The cost of this service is paid by the Association and subsequently re-billed to the members themselves.

In the interests of cost efficiency the Association also organises a group insurance scheme through its insurance brokers for those of its members that wish to participate in same. The scheme provides for certain rebates of premiums to be paid once the claims experience meets predetermined targets and these refunds are paid to the AIR who, in turn, pass them back to the relevant members.

The Association also arranges for the services of the Meteorological Office to be available to all racecourses by payment of an annual fee which is recharged to the individual members.

While the vast bulk of the Association’s income comes from membership fees the Association also has some other income would including deposit interest, monies received from radio stations which entitles them to enter the racecourse and to provide race commentary to their listeners. Where there are multiple owners of a racehorse the Association provides AIR Access Cards to such owners that entitle them to free access on any day that their horse is running. A charge is levied for such cards and a replacement charge is also levied for those whose cards are lost or destroyed. The funds referred to in this paragraph are retained in the organisation to help defray the running costs of the Association.