HRI to freeze pay, cut prize money and restrict course developments as recession bites

REDUCTIONS of prize monies, staff pay freezes and restrictions on racecourse development projects are amongst the key financial cuts announced by Horse Racing Ireland yesterday.

HRI’s Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said the cutbacks are regrettable, but unavoidable in the current climate.

The Irish horse racing and breeding industry employs over 16,500 people directly and indirectly and 1.5m people go racing in Ireland every year.

“An improvement in the economic environment and the continuation of secure, long term funding are central to a return to growth in the industry,” Kavanagh said.

“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,” he said.

Any projects on which work has already commenced will be concluded, but no new projects will be approved in the short term. Said Kavanagh: “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.”

Total prize money will be reduced by €4.2m to €56.5m next year. 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.

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

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.

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.

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. 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.

In 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.

In view of the anticipated decrease in income from the Thoroughbred Foal Levy next year the Breeders Prize Scheme will be discontinued with effect from 1st January 2009.

On sponsorship, Kavanagh added: “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.”

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