Insurance cover challenges could stop amateur horse racing in tracks

UK-based subsidiary of Liberty Mutual not renewing policies partly due to claims costs

Insurance costs for clubs over the past year for race meetings has doubled and tripled, in some cases bringing premiums to €12,000 and upwards.

Insurance costs for clubs over the past year for race meetings has doubled and tripled, in some cases bringing premiums to €12,000 and upwards.

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Amateur horse racing may grind to a halt this week as organisers are running out of time to secure insurance cover due to a UK underwriter failing to renew policies.

Insurance cover for point-to-point race meetings is being pulled from many of the organised events from Wednesday as the primary insurer – a UK-based subsidiary of US parent company Liberty Mutual – is failing to renew policies, partly due to claims costs.

Liberty Insurance Ireland left the commercial market here two years ago, leaving no Irish-based insurance underwriter for the sport.

There are more than 100 point-to-point events held per season and these are organised by local hunt club committees with the Irish Horse Racing Board (IHRB) acting as the administrator.

The majority of the hunt clubs in Ireland are involved in running amateur or point-to-point racing across the country.

Point-to-points

The overseas insurer has not been renewing cover for hunt clubs, which run the majority of the amateur meetings known as point-to-points.

Insurance costs for clubs over the past year for race meetings had doubled and tripled, in some cases bringing their premiums to €12,000 and upwards.

Galway man Derek O’Connor who is the country’s top amateur point-to-point rider of all time – holding nine titles and with more than 1,200 winners – said the livelihoods of hundreds of people were being put on the line over the insurance cover crisis.

He said: “But it’s not just about jobs, it’s about the rural way of life and all that is associated with this. The racing industry is just one of several sectors drastically affected by insurance issues that have not been addressed properly here for years.”

Race meetings understood to be facing immediate collapse in insurance cover are in Tipperary, Wicklow, Dublin, Meath, Carlow and Laois.

Hunt clubs

Niall Cronin, IHRB spokesman, said the ongoing impasse is “definitely affecting” a lot of people working in the industry and is “such a big concern”.

He confirmed several meetings are continuing to be held by the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee of the IHRB, insurance industry representatives and hunt clubs management along with Government officials but no progress has been made to date.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Seán Fleming, who is representing the Government on the issue, held a series of meetings with the chief executives of the eight major insurers based in Ireland two weeks ago.His department said: “The Government is acutely aware of the concerns felt by some parts of the equestrian and various other sectors regarding the cost and availability of insurance.

“Furthermore . . . [Mr Fleming] . . . is planning to examine issues around the provision of cover in niche areas such as equestrian events in the coming weeks with representatives of the insurance and broker industries.”