Tipperary selected for new all-weather track - but there's no cash to build it
Tipperary has been announced as the selected venue for Ireland's second all-weather racecourse in the 2020 budget released by Horse Racing Ireland – but a lack of funding means the project is at a standstill.
Although Tipperary was selected as the location for the all-weather track, no formal approval was given and any plans will need to be submitted for reconsideration by HRI’s Evaluation Committee once HRI capital grant aid is available and Tipperary has sourced the required funding.
HRI boss Brian Kavanagh said: “Tipperary is the selected venue but we can't go ahead with that until out funding situation is resolved.
“The board have asked for 18 months to resolve that. The evaluation is completed and Tipperary was selected, which probably wasn't the biggest secret in racing, but until they have the funds to progress with that, we're at a standstill.”
Also announced in the budget was the news that prize-money, described by Kavanagh as a priority, will rise by €1.7 million to a figure of €68m, with some of the additional spend attributable to seven extra race meetings in 2020.
With state funding unchanged at €67.2m from last year something had to give, and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board was left with €200,000 less in the integrity services budget.
In the press release issued by HRI, it stated that the integrity and equine welfare spend in 2020 would be more than €15.5m, which includes integrity support costs of €9.2m, compared with the €9.4m allocated to the IHRB in 2019.
IHRB boss Denis Egan said: “We are obviously disappointed with the cut in the integrity services budget.
“However, we fully understand the difficulty HRI has with no increase in funding and in the circumstances we will work with the funding we have been allocated.”
In recent months, the IHRB has committed to more testing, both equine and human, but Egan would not comment on what implications the budget would have on the body's ability to carry out such commitments.
There will be an increased investment of €200,000 into the promotion of equine welfare in 2020, including a new dedicated equine welfare function within HRI.
Kavanagh stressed that HRI’s spend on the integrity budget would be similar to 2019. “The actual integrity costs will go up slightly or will be close to on a par with the 2019 spend," he said. "It's just reflective of the standstill situation that we're in at the moment.”
The redevelopment of the Irish Equine Centre in Johnstown, County Kildare, was also outlined as a priority by HRI, but due to a budget which was described as “extremely tight” by Kavanagh, that project will also be delayed.
He concluded: "The 2020 budget for the industry is extremely tight and while we have been able to fund the increased fixture list, there have been cutbacks or standstill situations in other areas.
"The basis for funding the industry in the future lies in the increased yield which is now being generated from betting tax, which is expected to generate close to €100m in revenue this year.
“The HRI board has aligned its spend in 2020 with its strategic priorities for the industry.
"However, the reality is that a number of important capital projects such as the Irish Equine Centre redevelopment, the development of a second All-Weather Track and a new racecourse capital development scheme, are on hold due to the lack of certainty around the longer term funding of the industry."
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