Board of Horse Racing Ireland unanimously approves new media rights arrangements

Friday, May 12, 2023
Curragh Camera

Board of Horse Racing Ireland has unanimously approved new media rights arrangements. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post

The Board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has today unanimously approved the signing of new media rights arrangements for Irish racing for a period of five years from the start of 2024. This follows a media rights sales process which has been open, fair, robust and transparent with a significant degree of independent oversight.

The HRI Board welcomed the unanimous approval of the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) Board for this deal and the authorisation for AIR to conclude contractual arrangements for 21 of its 26 member racecourses. The completion of the sale of the media rights for 21 racecourses as well as HRI’s data rights for all fixtures will now be progressed in timely fashion.  It is regrettable that five racecourses have not authorised the AIR to conclude the arrangements on their behalf and HRI will be writing to those racecourses separately. 

The HRI Board would like to commend the media rights committee which has clearly and comprehensively fulfilled its statutory obligation to negotiate, on behalf of HRI and all authorised racecourses, the best possible arrangements for the sale of Irish racing media rights.

“To maximise the value of the media rights on behalf of racecourses and the industry, the HRI media rights committee engaged experts to provide a comprehensive valuation of the rights of Irish racing and to assist with the production of an extensive Invitation To Tender. While the process has been lengthy, the benefits will be significant as it has resulted in new media rights arrangements, approved today by the HRI Board, which represent an extremely positive deal for all Irish racecourses.

“Irish media rights revenues have increased by nearly 50% since the last deal was agreed at the end of 2015 and grown more than six-fold between 2007 and 2022. Based on future growth projections, it is hoped that the total value could grow by an estimated further 50% by 2028.

“The deal has been delivered through a collective negotiation where every step in this process was conducted hand in hand by HRI and the AIR, the representative body for all 26 Irish racecourses. I want to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the five person media rights committee, and particularly the chair of the committee, who is also the chair of AIR and one of the two AIR appointees to the committee. The outcome has been a long-term deal which will underpin the financial viability of racecourses until at least 2028 and has been unanimously approved by the media rights committee, the board of HRI and the board of AIR.

“Whilst the terms of the media rights arrangements cannot be revealed for confidentiality reasons, the Joint Bid by SIS and RMG clearly offered the best financial proposition for Irish racing media rights across all the packages on offer, which was independently validated by an expert third party. 

“The distribution element of the deal involved intensive negotiations between AIR and HRI, and the arrangements have been accepted by the HRI Board and the vast majority of racecourses. This will see the overall percentage of the total revenues received by racecourses growing progressively over the next five years. The income flowing to racecourses will be distributed on an open, transparent and equitable basis, with each racecourse receiving revenues largely derived from the betting turnover on their respective individual fixtures.

“There are significant safeguards built into the new arrangements for racecourses with each venue guaranteed its 2022 average per race income in 2024. An easing-in provision has also been included for the first three years of the new deal to assist smaller racecourses as the model moves to a turnover basis. Virtually all racecourses are forecast to achieve higher revenues in 2025 than at present.

“Any attempt to paint the tender process as unfair, or the distribution model as unjust, is either lacking a basic understanding of the media rights landscape or is misrepresenting the facts.

“HRI is extremely concerned that confidential information pertaining to the existing media rights arrangements appears to have been disclosed in breach of the strict confidentiality terms within the existing contract. It is deeply regrettable that confidential and commercially sensitive information within the proposed contractual arrangements for the future rights also appears to have been disclosed. HRI will continue to respect the confidential basis on which the bids were made.

“Despite recession, Covid and a myriad of challenges, racecourses small and large have not just survived, but most have thrived, through two decades of a collective approach on media rights. They have done so for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the strength of staying united and keeping sight of the bigger picture.

“Much has been said in the media of the HRI earnings in this media rights agreement but without acknowledging that the earnings go directly back to developing the industry, assisting racecourses with capital development grants, paying for other racecourse supports and contributing to the funding of additional fixtures which provide opportunities for owners, trainers, jockeys and all industry participants. HRI has always been conscious of the role it plays in the industry and has consistently listened and reacted to the concerns of racecourses of every size in consecutive rights negotiations.”