Irish Racing Funding Cut Due to Economy

Cuts include purse cutbacks, freeze on wages and breeders' prizes

Edited press release from Horse Racing Ireland

Horse Racing Ireland announced Nov. 20 a series of budgetary measures for 2009 including a reduction in prize money, a freezing of grant aid to organizations supported by HRI, a pay freeze for HRI staff and restrictions on racecourse capital development projects.

The Irish horse racing and breeding industry employs over 16,500 people directly and indirectly and 1.5 million people go racing in Ireland every year. 
 “While cutbacks are regrettable, they are unavoidable in the current climate,” said HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh stated, noting that the Irish breeding industry is the third-largest in the world. “An improvement in the economic environment and the continuation of secure, long term funding are central to a return to growth in the industry. HRI is already working with Government to achieve this aim and in particular to ensure the resumption of the Racecourse Capital Development Programme as soon as possible. ”

The key features of the 2009 HRI budget are as follows:-

--Prize Money
Total prize money will be reduced by €4.2 million to €56.5 million in 2009.  On a like for like basis this represents a 7% reduction from 2008, which will be applied across all categories of races.  Funding for point to point racing will also be reduced. 

--Racecourse Capital Developments
The Racecourse Capital Development Fund will be curtailed.  Any projects on which work has already commenced will be concluded, but no new projects will be approved in the short term.  The Racecourse Capital Development Fund is financed by long term borrowings and until the issues surrounding the future of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund are addressed, borrowings to cover necessary future developments cannot be put in place.

--HRI Internal Cost Savings
Cost savings of €1.3 million will be achieved within HRI through reductions in central overhead and administration costs, and reduced activity in marketing.

--Pay Freeze
A ten month pay freeze will be applied to all staff employed by HRI, Tote Ireland and HRI Racecourses Ltd, with the implementation of the first phase of the National Wage Agreement deferred for seven months.

-- Integrity Costs
The funding of integrity costs incurred by the Turf Club will be reduced by 5.8%  in 2009 with most of the savings to be achieved from greater efficiencies rather than a reduced level of activity.

--Racecourse Support Schemes
A number of racecourse support schemes including the sponsorship incentive scheme, the winter racing grant, the share of tote betting and the big screen support scheme will be restricted or amended.

-- Grants to Industry Bodies
All grants paid by HRI to industry bodies such as RACE, the Irish Equine Centre, the Blue Cross, the Order of Malta, the Irish Farriery School and the Irish Horse Welfare Trust will be frozen at 2008 levels.

-- HRI Charges
n view of the difficulties being faced by clients, all charges levied by HRI including race entry fees, registration charges, bookmakers’ permit fees and the Thoroughbred Foal Levy will be held at 2008 levels.
--Breeders Prizes Scheme
In view of the anticipated decrease in income from the Thoroughbred Foal Levy next year the Breeders Prize Scheme will be discontinued, effective Jan. 1, 2009.

HRI recognises the importance of sponsorship to Irish racing in recent years and in order to protect the historically healthy levels of race sponsorship, HRI will work together with racecourses and their sponsors to tailor packages to reflect the current difficult environment. 

The 2009 budgets for the HRI subsidiary companies Tote Ireland Ltd, HRI Racecourses Ltd and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Ltd are being separately considered.