THE group of five Irish racecourses who have established their own organisation, following a disagreement with Horse Racing Ireland [HRI] over media rights payments, say they have received a lot of support from since going public with their grievance.

Kilbeggan, Limerick, Roscommon, Thurles and Sligo have come together to form United Irish Racecourses [UIR] and are demanding more transparency from HRI over the percentage of media rights payments being retained by the authority.

UIR would also like to see a more open discussion on the criteria which decides how much each racecourse receives in media rights for a day’s racing.

The current media rights deal expires at the end of this year and HRI’s Media Rights Committee has selected existing partners Sports Information Services (SIS) and Racecourse Media Group (the parent company of Racing TV) as the preferred bidders for the next five-year contract.

HRI and the Association of Irish Racecourses have both expressed a desire to keep all 26 tracks signed up to the new deal but the five UIR members say they won’t sign until they are given the information they seek.

Kilbeggan manager Paddy Dunican said on behalf of UIR: “We are very touched and overwhelmed with the huge public support we have received.

“Many people have expressed their shock and dismay at the huge financial injustice that a semi-state body has imposed on many small racecourses. They believe that it is wrong that HRI has taken hundreds of thousands off small racecourses to subsidise major capital development projects on big racecourses.

“Many people find it hard to comprehend that a semi-state body takes 20% for pre-race data from some of the smaller racecourses, but only takes half this from some of the race meetings at larger racecourses. Pre-race data is only valued at 2% in Britain.”

UIR contend that HRI has a conflict of interest by being involved in the media rights negotiations while being an owner or partner in several major tracks.

Dunican added: “Many racecourse owners feel that HRI should not be involved in racecourse ownership as well as being the governing body of Irish racing. It is a conflict of interest and the Department of Agriculture now needs to transform the administrative structures, to ensure that Irish Racing is managed with openness accountability, transparency equity and natural justice.”