Corporate sponsorship and contributions to prize money by racecourses has continued to rise in Ireland, according to new figures released by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).
The HRI reported a 17.3% increase to corporate sponsorship, while attendance figures grew to over 1.3 million people showing a 4.5% year-on-year increase.
HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh commented: “Attendances in 2019 were strong and the popularity of racing as a spectator sport was backed up by a 3.2% increase year-on-year. For the first time in a decade in 2019 Horse Racing Ireland returned with a television advertising campaign and that has been warmly received.
“With the assistance of various Horse Racing Ireland capital development schemes, our racecourses have invested strongly in upgrading facilities. As well as the obvious contribution this makes to local economies, it has also served to make racecourses more modern and comfortable for racegoers.
“There remains much to do however, and Horse Racing Ireland will continue to work hard on ensuring the best possible customer experience. The international environment has rarely been as competitive and prize money remains one of the key factors in attracting owners to have horses in training in Ireland.
“Prize money grew by 4% in 2019 to €66.06m. There will be a further slight increase to €68m in 2020, but we want to do more.
“Commercial sponsorship and racecourse contributions to prize money continued in a strong upward trend. Increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018 have been followed by a significant rise last year with commercial sponsorship and racecourse contributions to prize money up by 17.3% from €5.2m to €6.1m.
“One area of prize money policy which worked well in 2019 was the introduction of a new €500,000 fund between twenty Grade 2 and Grade 3 racecourses to help increase the value of their feature races. These increases enhanced the quality of feature race days at many of our smaller, vibrant racecourses around the country.”
Kavanagh continued: “2019 was a good year for Irish racing, however the industry requires long-term certainty of funding to be able to plan strategically, not least in the context of the challenges provided by Brexit.
“The increased revenue from betting tax provides the basis for such a long-term funding mechanism and Horse Racing Ireland will engage actively with the incoming Government in the coming month to achieve this objective.”