Horse Racing Ireland's 2021 budget has been approved, with measures to combat the threats of COVID-19 and Brexit key among the priorities.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said, “The HRI budget for 2021 is set in the context of two lifetime challenges hitting the sector simultaneously and the priority is to shield the industry from the impacts of both Covid-19 and Brexit, while being cognisant of the welfare of our horses and the people that work with them. Thanks to the effort of many, the finances of Horse Racing Ireland are stable as we come to the end of one of the most challenging years any of us will ever face. The Board wishes to acknowledge the effort and sacrifices made within the industry this year and is pleased to announce a progressive budget for 2021 which is aimed at giving some clarity in an uncertain environment.
“In framing its budget, HRI is following the key objectives set out in our Strategic Plan for the industry 2020-2024 which was launched earlier this year. The quality of the Irish racing and breeding product remains strong and, working within our plan, I am confident that we can put 2020 behind us and look forward with some optimism.”
Budgeted prizemoney for 2021 is €60.7-million, with the return of minimum prizemoney levels to €10,000 a priority. Fourteen extra fixtures have already been announced, taking the overall total to 384.
The budget also includes government funding toward the redevelopment of the Irish Equine Centre in Johnstown, Co. Kildare. This project will ensure the highest possible standards of disease prevention and surveillance within the industry. The budget also makes provisions for an all-weather track at Tipperary and a new racecourse grant scheme to enhance stable yard capacities. HRI noted it will work with racecourses in 2021 on a case-by-case basis to assist them with mitigating the impact of COVID-19. Budget provision has also been made for a national awareness campaign for the safe return to race-going when appropriate.
The board has approved €14-million for integrity and racecourse services, and €1.3-million to support breeders and the sale of Irish-bred horses in light of the double threats of COVID and Brexit.
Kavanagh continued, “2020 was a year when prudence with the industry's finances was an absolute necessity and the resilience of our sector enabled many to get through the year. That said, 2020 was anything but normal and the spectacle of high quality racing in front of empty stands was a depressingly familiar sight. Regrettably this new normal will continue to be the theme as we head into 2021, although recent developments regarding vaccines and travel do allow some cause for optimism regarding a safe return to more normal activity.
“The allocations in Budget 2021 have been guided by the HRI Strategic Plan for the industry with growth in fixtures and prize money targeting increased participation in the sector. HRI will ensure that our prize money remains internationally competitive and we will announce a new scheme in early 2021 to provide financial support to the breeding industry and assist Irish vendors in the post Brexit environment. The Irish Tote alliance with the UK Tote Group will commence from 1st January 2021 following the issue of a new seven-year Tote licence by the Government in October, while the latest phase of redevelopment of Leopardstown has just been completed, although unfortunately we will not be able to showcase it to the public at the forthcoming Christmas Festival.”