Brexit among warning signs for Irish racing says Kavanagh
While acknowledging the success story of Irish racing and breeding in 2016, Brian Kavanagh believes there are a number of “amber lights flashing”.
Brexit, the reliance on media rights income, fragile trainer business models and new stallions going outside Ireland were highlighted as the main challenges facing the industry.
The Horse Racing Ireland chief executive, speaking at the launch of an economic impact study by Deloitte, said: “We’re pleased with the output of the report and there are some very positive messages in there, but there are also some significant warnings. There are amber lights flashing.
"Brexit is a major warning sign. Eighty per cent of our exports are to the United Kingdom, so there is a significant risk in that area.
"The report shows the dependence of racecourses on media rights income. It points to the fragile business model which trainers are currently operating to. There are also difficulties as to the funding of racing in Northern Ireland.
"One section shows a disturbing statistic – in only three of the last ten years has the highest-priced new stallion going to stud been based in Ireland. In the previous ten years I would imagine that figure would have been eight or nine. There is real competition for our breeding industry now from Britain and France."
Michael Creed TD, the minister for agriculture, food and the marine, echoed Kavanagh's sentiments and pointed out the importance of killing off predators with their eyes on Irish goodies.
Creed said: "The great value of a document like this is that it points out the strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses are what we are obliged to focus in on from a policy perspective and to address. Just by way of comparison, later this morning I am going up to County Cavan to celebrate a very significant investment in the dairy industry. There is an industry that is rooted in the Irish economy for better or worse. It's not an option to up and relocate elsewhere.
"What I'm acutely conscious of in the context of this industry is that it's a mobile industry. And except for the fact that we have the appropriate policy framework in place to address the challenges that the industry faces, there are many predators out there who would like to take what we have. What we have is extraordinary valuable as a global leader in this industry."
As a parting shot ahead of the Irish Budget next month, Kavanagh was keen to stress that money invested in horseracing by the Irish government is going to good use.
"There is a huge amount to digest in the report. All of it points to an industry that needs nurturing, needs minding and needs careful looking after. We welcome the report and we believe that it's a success story for rural Ireland. I hope the report shows that the government gets good value for the money it invests in horseracing," Kavanagh concluded.