United Irish Racecourses group wants legislation dealing with media rights

The five tracks that make up UIR are due to meet with Horse Racing Ireland next week

The rebel United Irish Racecourses group has said it still wants legislation dealing with media rights in the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act changed as they believe it to be “unconstitutional.”

The five tracks that make up UIR – Thurles, Sligo, Kilbeggan, Limerick and Roscommon – are due to meet with Horse Racing Ireland next week in a latest attempt to try and find a resolution to a long-running dispute they have with the industry’s ruling body over media rights.

Those handful of smaller courses have rejected a €47 million per year pictures deal negotiated by HRI’s media rights committee that will continue current arrangements with Sports Information Systems and Racecourse Media Group until 2028.

Ireland’s 21 other tracks have accepted the SIS/RMG package, part of which keeps home viewing of Irish racing behind a paywall on Racing TV.


UIR have insisted the deal is unfair to smaller tracks and that HRI takes a disproportionate amount of the revenue generated. Their preference is for a €100,000 per fixture offer from Arena Racing Company (ARC) and want the freedom for racecourses to negotiate their own rights.

However, under legislation, all negotiations for authorised racecourses must be carried out by HRI’s media rights committee and on Friday the UIR spokesman, Kilbeggan boss, Paddy Dunican, said legislative changed is needed.

“We believe Section 10 of the 2001 Act is unconstitutional,” said Dunican who also rejected reports arising from a recent UIR appearance in front of the joint-Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that the ARC offer wouldn’t generate as much revenue for the tracks compared to the SIS/RMG deal.

“The ARC offer is substantially higher and more secure for small racecourses,” he added. “UIR is also focused on the entire entertainment package with dwindling racecourse attendances transferring their betting interests to racing channels and online etc.”

The long-running dispute was examined too recently by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee who asked HRI to consider appointing an independent arbitrator on the matter, a step that has been welcomed by UIR.

Such a possibility will be on the agenda when both sides meet this Wednesday.

HRI has said it wants to get the five UIR tracks back in the loop and eventually sign the SIS/RMG deal. It’s chief executive, Suzanne Eade, who was notably critical of UIR when the HRI board unanimously approved that deal last month, has said she would rather have them “onside.”

A HRI spokesperson said on Friday there had been no communication yet from the PAC.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column