Irish racing not amused at reports


Racing organisations have reacted with alarm to reports that RTE plans to reduce its coverage of Irish racing by almost a third.

A bidding war for the coverage of Formula One racing has prompted reports that RTE will be cutting the number of Irish race meetings they cover by as many as nine in 1999. Thirty fixtures were scheduled to be covered this year.

"The 1998 schedule was reduced by three from 1997 and our understanding was that there would be no further reductions in 1999. The word on the grapevine is very disturbing and not in keeping with the position as we understood it to be," said Frank Smyth of the Association of Irish Racecourses yesterday. The AIR are urgently seeking a meeting with RTE to discuss the situation and they will also be meting with the Irish Horseracing Authority.

The IHA's chief executive Noel Ryan described his organisation as being "concerned" with the present speculation regarding RTE.

"RTE have not actually said officially what they are going to do but from what I have read there seems to be a belt tightening exercise to enable their budget to afford Formula One. TV is very important for increasing the exposure of racing, for popularising it and also for attracting sponsors. If we lose that kind of exposure it would not be good for racing," Ryan said.

"It is a better situation now than when there was a total RTE monopoly. I hope there will be no overall reduction in the coverage of racing. TV3 looked at racing initially and I think they are still interested. RTE don't get huge audiences for racing compared to other sports and we are conscious of that but racing has to fight its corner."

Wetherby racecourse will from January 4th next year be run by International Racecourse Management Limited. IRM currently administers Catterick, Doncaster and Redcar racecourses.

Christopher Tetley, the general manager and clerk of the course at Wetherby, will retain both appointments until the end of the track's 1998/1998 jumping season on May 31st after which he will continue as clerk of the course and a member of the board.

John Sanderson, chairman of Wetherby racecourse and chief executive of IRM, commented: "With a £4.1 million investment in the construction of a new grandstand starting next month, the Wetherby board considered that it was important to expand and strengthen the management team.

"Not only is there a major building project to oversee on the ground but the marketing and selling of the new facilities must also start immediately."