Racecourse media rights in final furlong

Talks over the future of latest batch of media rights put on the block by Ireland’s racecourses are still going on

Talks over the future of the latest batch of media rights put on the block by Ireland’s racecourses are still going on, even though many observers were expecting an announcement by now.

The package currently being negotiated involves satellite TV, the increasingly important digital streaming and rights to pictures sold to countries outside Ireland and Britain.

State body Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) does the negotiating, although the 26 courses themselves have to ratify any deal. It recently entered into exclusive talks with Attheraces, current holder of the satellite TV broadcasting rights. It also has the streaming and international rights.

While the Attheraces bid is obviously the strong favourite, it does appear that the door is still ajar to a competing bid from Racing UK and Setanta.

The former, part of Racecourse Media Group, has the rights to most of Britain's top tracks, including the likes of Cheltenham, Aintree and Epsom, and is known to be keen to expand over here.

The financial ins and outs of each deal are not known, but the Racing UK/Setanta venture involved a dedicated Irish racing channel shown free on the UPC platform.

This contrasts with Attheraces, which shows Irish racing along with action

from – mostly lesser known – British courses.

Interestingly, one of Irish racing’s best- known names, national hunt jockey, Ruby Walsh, made his feelings known in his most recent Irish Examiner column.

Walsh first of all declared an interest by pointing out that Racing UK has sponsored him for four years and he was part of the joint bid. With that out of the way, he argued that the competing bid was a compelling proposal that would have showcased Irish racing, both here and in Britain.

At the same time, he pointed out that Racing UK paid £46 million back to its 33 British courses last year.

Overall, he said that not going with Racing UK represents a missed opportunity for the sport.

Fundamentally, Walsh argued that the deal would not just have been financially beneficial, but would also have promoted racing as a sport and not simply a betting product.