OTHER sports should make their own case for increased state funding and not target racing, says Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary and chairperson of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture.

Cahill welcomed this week’s economic report on the racing industry published by Horse Racing Ireland and says he feels very comfortable defending the Government’s annual injection of €70 million into the sector.

“The report is heavily weighted on the economic importance of the industry and it makes clear that racing is self-financing. When you take into account the employment it generates in every corner of the country and the money it brings into the state, it’s my view that it is a good investment for the Government. I would have no problem defending it.”

Last month the Football Association of Ireland published a report which inaccurately claimed betting tax revenue was ringfenced to fund horse racing and greyhound racing. In reality racing receives funding only from the Department of Agriculture and is at the Minister’s discretion.

Cahill said: “Other sports are entitled to look for increased funding but they should do so on their own merits. It shows a weakness to try and target another sport. Racing is more a business than a sport, and this week’s report shows that to the case.”

Based on research carried out by Deloitte, the report claims that the racing and breeding sector delivered €2.46 billion to the economy in direct and stimulated expenditure in 2022, up 34% from 2016, and supports a total of 30,350 jobs, an increase of 1,450 in that same period.

The breeding sector generated revenues of €819 million, €264 million was spent by racehorse owners on training costs, and racegoers are estimated to have spent €193 million.

The report also shows that the top attended Irish racing festivals in 2022 attracted a combined attendance figure of over half a million people.

The number of owners and horses in training also shows significant resilience. In 2022 there were 4,757 active owner accounts in Ireland, a significant increase from the 2016 figure of 3,663. Deloitte research shows that the active owner accounts in 2022 represented 13,592 individuals and 10,208 horses that were registered in training during the year.

Speaking about the report, HRI chairman Nicky Hartery said: “Ireland’s global position in racing, from fledgling status a few short decades ago, is today a strong one. Last year the industry was responsible for over €550 million of foreign direct investment, which points to the stability this industry offers to international investors.

“With the continued investment, expertise, and passion of Ireland’s racing sector, we aim to expand the global market for Irish thoroughbreds, create an even bigger domestic footprint to continue to deliver for the rural economy, and demonstrably lead the sector on key measures of equine welfare and sustainability.”

In the six years to the end of 2022 it is estimated that capital expenditure in the breeding and racing industry hit €265 million. This money was invested in both facilities and infrastructure.

Almost €110 million was invested over the period 2017 to 2022 with €57 million in funding provided by HRI. This included projects in Galway, Punchestown, Naas, Leopardstown, and Roscommon, with a total of 20 racecourses receiving grant aid from HRI.

Of the estimated €125 million of capital investment by breeders and bloodstock auction houses in the six years to 2022, an estimated 45% came from overseas investors.

Suzanne Eade, CEO of HRI, commented: “The figures from the research carried out by Deloitte on behalf of HRI demonstrate the significance of racing and breeding to the rural economy and is testament to decades of consistent Government support.

“Behind the significant economic impact and our global reputation is a hugely skilled workforce, dedicated to the horses in their care. Our industry supports in excess of 30,000 full-time employees, 9,400 of those in the core industry, making their living as a direct or indirect result from the racing and breeding industry.

“We are acutely aware that racing and breeding is a very competitive and mobile industry. We will continue to work with Government and all stakeholders to maintain our competitive advantage and Ireland’s reputation as global leaders at breeding and training racehorses.”