Roscommon Racecourse is one of five racetracks nationwide which have rejected a Horse Racing Ireland-negotiated €200m media rights deal in a dispute over what they claim would be inequitable distribution of funding.
United Irish Racecourses (UIR) – which comprises of Roscommon, Kilbeggan, Limerick, Thurles and Sligo racecourses – is refusing to sign up to the deal and has asked Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to intervene in the row. It means that races from the five tracks may not be broadcast on Racing TV from 2024 on.
At the heart of the dispute is the issue of a new five-year deal on broadcasting of racing from Irish racecourses, and the question of how funding would be distributed to the racetracks involved.
At a recent meeting of the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR), 21 of its 26 members voted in favour of an agreement on broadcasting of races in Ireland from 2024 to 2029.
The deal – worth an estimated €200m – was negotiated by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) with broadcaster Racecourse Media Group (RMG) and Sports Information Services (SIS), and was expected to be signed on Tuesday of this week. It would have granted RMG/SIS exclusive broadcasting rights to 26 racecourses across Ireland.
However, Roscommon Racecourse and the four other members of the United Irish Racecourses (UIR) have rejected the deal, claiming they would be victims of “inequitable” distribution of media rights funding.
Roscommon and its partner racecourses say HRI-owned racecourses look set to earn ‘seven figures’ from the deal, with HRI expected to benefit directly to the tune of €7 million.
UIR said that trust between its members and HRI has “broken down” in light of HRI’s “failure to make good on an undertaking in 2016 to facilitate an independent review of the allocation of media rights monies, and to ensure that all monies derived from that deal would go towards current or capital expenditure”.
UIR added: “To date they (HRI) have failed, and or refused to commence this process. Seven years ago, UIR signed the media rights agreement with RMG/SIS by virtue of this undertaking, and because it trusted HRI to deliver on its promise”.
Secretary of UIR, Paddy Dunican (Managing Director of Kilbeggan Racecourse) has now written to the Minister for Agriculture to request his intervention to address their concerns, so that small racecourses will “receive the maximum market value for their media rights”.
In a statement to the Roscommon People on Wednesday, Mr. Dunican said: “UIR racecourses have decided to withdraw from a media rights agreement that simply does not represent the interests of the membership. Our concerns at the inequitable distribution of funding under these deals have not been addressed… UIR wants what is best for racing and race-goers: parity of treatment, exposure of the sport, and enhanced attendances. To that end, HRI has an additional onus on it to derive the best possible deal, while transparently delivering value to all courses in a fair and equitable way”.