Coveney welcomes horse racing review

 

A BLUEPRINT for the future of the Irish horse racing industry has been welcomed by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney.

The Review of Certain Aspects of the Racing Industry was carried out by independent economic consultants, Indecon.

It contains wide-ranging recommendations aimed at developing, streamlining and strengthening the role of the sector.

Addressing an audience of industry figures at the launch of the review in Galway yesterday, Mr Coveney appealed to all involved in horse racing to make comments and criticisms known to him over the next few weeks. He said he was determined to begin implementing some of the recommendations in the autumn.

“The Irish bloodstock industry is of enormous economic benefit to this country, providing 16,000 jobs, almost €1 billion in economic output with exports worth some €157 million to 35 countries in 2011,” Mr Coveney said, “and my overall objective, which is shared by the Government, is to ensure that the sector’s world-class standing and reputation is protected and maintained into the future.”

Managing partner of Indecon Alan Gray said he had been surprised at the significance of the sector. About 1.2 million people attended Irish race meetings every year and the sector supported an estimated 80,000 sports tourists annually.

Indecon says that with appropriate policies, the sector has an important potential contribution to make to economic and social development in Ireland and to the expansion of employment. However, significant funding challenges would have to be surmounted to ensure that horse racing realised its potential.

The review points to concerns over the appropriateness and medium-term sustainability of funding for the industry unless changes are made.

The funding analysis indicates that the main potential source of additional funding is from the betting industry and it calls for measures to be introduced to secure a significant increase in taxation from this sector.

Mr Gray pointed to the large size of the 16-member board of Horse Racing Ireland, the body charged with the overall administration of the sport, and acknowledged that the size and diversity of interests may constitute a weakness from the perspective of efficiency and effectiveness.

The review strongly recommends changes in the nomination process and composition of the board of Horse Racing Ireland to address fundamental issues concerning ministerial and government accountability for the use of taxpayer funds.