For the first time in history, Irish racing looks set to have two separate providers of pictures after five racecourses rejected a media rights deal on Tuesday.
At a groundbreaking general meeting of the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) held at the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge, the five members of the United Irish Racecourses (UIR) voted against the five-year deal worth €47 million.
That means that the five tracks–Kilbeggan, Limerick, Roscommon, Sligo and Thurles–are now free to negotiate their own separate deal, presumably with Arena Racing Company, which could pave the way for Irish racing to return to Sky Sports Racing in 2024.
The current deal, which is due to expire at the end of this year, is with Sports Information Services [SIS] and Racecourse Media Group, which sees all Irish racing broadcast on RTV.
It is understood that UIR received “an unsolicited offer” of €100,000 per fixture from Arc last year, but the five tracks now have to request HRI’s media rights committee to negotiate another contract for them
The new deal with SIS and RMG was given “preferred bidder” status last year by the Media Rights Committee, which consists of five executives from AIR and Horse Racing Ireland.
However, the five tracks expressed their dissatisfaction with the deal back in January and formed UIR. The discontent stems from how the media rights are distributed by HRI and how the funding model favours the bigger tracks.
Conor O’Neill, chairman of HRI’s media rights committee, focused on the positives of the deal on Tuesday.
He said, “It’s a fantastic deal and I’m delighted for the 21 racecourses who have signed up to secure it today. I would like to thank the board of AIR and our CEO Paul Hensey for their hard work and support. I would also like to especially thank our former CEO Paddy Walsh who has worked tirelessly on achieving the best possible deal for our members and the HRI media rights committee whose commitment has been extraordinary throughout the entire process.”
O’Neill added, “Although it’s disappointing that it was not approved by all, today is a very positive day for the future of Irish racing, let’s not take away from that. I look forward to continuing our partnership with SIS and RMG for the overwhelming majority of Irish racecourses, subject to the approval by the HRI board on Friday.”