THE front page of last Saturday’s edition of this paper will have sent a worrying jolt throughout point-to-pointing.
Readers could well have been forgiven for feeling a worrying sense of déjà vu, reading the headline ‘insurance hits PTPs’, in response to the cancellation of last Sunday’s Galway Blazers fixture in Loughrea.
Mercifully the current predicament does not mirror last year’s insurance woes when hunts were unable to get insurance cover to renew their expiring policies, resulting in a situation where IHRB staff were left juggling fixtures to accommodate committees with looming expiring insurance policies in order to avoid blank weekends in the calendar.
The group insurance policy has prevented any mass-cancellation of fixtures beyond a handful of lost meetings last season, and all involved in the sport will hope that this latest event to again propel insurance to front-page news is indeed just ‘some teething issues’ as was suggested last week.
The Loughrea incident has served to remind all within the sport that while policies have been secured, insurance concerns have not been permanently overcome.
Somewhat fittingly, on the eve of the point-to-point season restarting, the insurance situation affecting the sector was raised by two TDs at last month’s Oireachtas hearing which saw members of both Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board appear before the Public Accounts Committee.
Wexford TD Verona Murphy had requested to see evidence of the efforts HRI have made in the area of insurance before suggesting that a stakeholder group should be set up within HRI to look at the issue.
“We support point-to-points through their grants and prize money in HRI,” Suzanne Eade, HRI CEO responded.
“Deputy Murphy recommended that we get a taskforce together on insurance matters, which is probably a bit overdue, because it is not just about point-to-point.
“We are seeing insurance providers being very selective about what they will insure across a range of areas that need to be insured and charging us more.
“Premiums and the excesses are going up. We are all having a tough time with insurance so we need support.”
The establishment of a taskforce that would involve both HRI and the IHRB to focus on insurance would certainly be a welcome development in order to take a greater strategic view of these wider insurance difficulties and their potential repercussions.
Even if these latest difficulties with the hunt’s insurance policy are addressed as expected, the wider implications of the insurance situation remain real.
Hunt clubs right across the country are currently grappling with insurance premiums increasing at an astronomical rate.
These costs may not be sustainable for many of them in the medium to long term and there are obvious implications of this for the point-to-point fixture list.