Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has set out six strategic priorities for the Irish racing industry as part of its new five-year strategic plan.
The new strategy, which will run from 2020 through to 2024, is hoped to increase the annual economic contribution of the industry to €2.5 billion, as well as provide a boost annual attendances to 1.5 million.
Horse Racing Ireland Chairman Nicky Hartery stated: “The most recent analysis shows that for every euro of government support the racing and breeding industry receives, it returns over €30 to the economy, mostly in rural Ireland.
“This strategic plan seeks to build on that dynamic and further grow what is a sustainable and indigenous industry. Horse racing and breeding play a vital role in the rural economy and the delivery of this plan will increase the positive impact the industry has all over the country.”
Also highlighted in the strategy, HRI revealed its plans to increase the number of fixtures to 416, while also upping the minimum race value to €12,500.
Hartery continued: “The areas we have identified that will deliver our vision are: increased participation at all levels; a focused plan to broaden the interest and appeal of racing; ensuring that we have the best employment policies for our industry; and building on our strong record to ensure the best-in-class integrity and equine welfare standards. All of this will need investment and that is contingent upon delivery of a sustainable funding model for our industry.
“Following a series of changes in betting tax arrangements, off course betting duty collected by the government in the year amounted to €94m in 2019. This figure comfortably exceeds Exchequer funding provided to horse racing and a projected growth in these receipts in the coming years will allow for a progressive increase in funding to €98m by 2024 at a reduced cost to the Exchequer.”
HRI’s strategic plan outlines actions that will drive an increase in the return on government investment, significantly improve the worth of the industry to the rural economy and build on the numbers employed across the country.
HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh added: “The aim of broadening the interest and appeal will focus on raising the profile of horseracing in Ireland. There will be a greater emphasis in the promotion and marketing of racing by the racecourses themselves and, in turn, growing sponsorship and brand activation of Irish horse racing.
“Attendance figures continue to grow. It is important that this trend continues and we are confident of reaching our targets by broadening interest and appeal in Irish horse racing with a number of initiatives including continued roll-out of the racecourse Wi-Fi scheme, a loyalty programme and an enhanced advance tickets sales strategy which will be in place by next year with the target of 1.5m racegoers in 2024.
“A contribution of up to €30m will be put towards a new capital development scheme of at least €70m to support racecourses throughout Ireland, improving facilities for both customers and those working in the industry. One of the key projects within the new fund will be the creation of a second all-weather track as part of a major redevelopment of Tipperary Racecourse and its surroundings, and the provision of one stable per horse for runners at all racecourses by 2022.”
Hartery concluded: “We will strive to do even better for our people and our horses through continued strong support, improving employment standards, communication and enhancing welfare support services to all those working in what can be a demanding industry.
“Through working with the IHRB, we will ensure that Irish racing operates to the highest standards of integrity and fairness. A multi-annual funding framework will allow the IHRB to provide world class regulatory services for the racing industry and working with the IHRB, Weatherbys and the relevant sections within the Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, we will continue to implement a ‘whole of life’ traceability system for all thoroughbreds.
“HRI will support the essential establishment of a new equine health and welfare campus and ensure that best practice in equine welfare is adopted throughout the industry.”