HRI funding down from elevated 2021 mark but up on pre-Covid levels
Horse Racing Ireland's new chief executive Suzanne Eade has welcomed confirmation of government funding amounting to €70.4 million for 2022 – a €6.4m drop from the Covid-boosted pandemic figure of 2021 but still above pre-pandemic levels.
An allocation of €1.7m has been given to the development of the Irish Equine Centre in a separate boost from the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, which is said to be down €8 million from the €96 million allocated for 2021.
Irish racing received a financial injection of €76.8m last year as a result of challenges presented by the pandemic, up 14 per cent from the previous budget of €67.2m.
Tuesday evening's announcement following the nationwide plan revealed by finance minister Paschal Donohoe sees a €3.2m increase from the 2020 figure for Horse Racing Ireland.
Eade told the Racing Post: "In fairness to the minister, he was pretty clear that 2021's uplift was to deal with Covid and even more recently was highlighting that it's not part of the baseline. The main thing is that we've seen an increase on 2020.
"We put in a strong case for continuing growth in our funding before the summer because our plans are progressing and we're really delivering for every Euro we get. We have a good track record with economic growth in rural Ireland. Overall, you'd have to acknowledge that they gave us an increase at a tough time."
She added: "We'll keep our plans going and will be working with the board over the coming weeks and months on what choices we'll make as a result of the funding.
"We'll make the choices based on what's going to deliver the most for the industry. That will come out in our budget in December when we have reflected."
Eade revealed that some progress has been made recently towards the development of a second all-weather track in Ireland at Tipperary, though it remains unclear when the project will be delivered.
In what is expected to be a complete redevelopment of the racecourse, a new all-weather track and start-up facilities for trainers will be introduced while the turf track is retained for jump racing and schooling.
"It has to go through government approval processes with the public spending code and we recently got the first level approved," said Eade.
"We have to work with the department around every step we take in that process. We're through the first gate, so now we'll be looking at where we'll allocate all the different funding from."
Pressed on some of her overarching ambitions for the new role, Eade said: "I'm very excited about the big strategic plans, whether it's the Irish Equine Centre or Tipperary, which would be fantastic to give us lots of new opportunities.
"Working with the leadership team in HRI and saying 'we've been through Brexit and the pandemic – what did we learn and what might we actually have to look at in a different way going forward?' Looking at how people consume racing. One of our biggest priorities is broadening the appeal of the sport."
The jumps season is coming! Pick up your copy of The Big Jump Off, our brand new pullout signalling the start of the 2021-22 National Hunt season. Free in the Racing Post on Monday, October 18, it's got 72 pages of unbeatable content including ante-post tips, guest columnists, divisional analysis and much more