Robbie McNamara hits out at new TV deal that will cost Irish racing fans over €350 a year
Racing UK has confirmed it is to take over the coverage of racing in Ireland from At The Races in a five-year deal starting in 2019.
Racecourse Media Group (RMG) and Sports Information Services (SIS) have extended their relationship to encompass direct-to-home and streaming rights to all 26 Irish racecourses - as well taking over Chelmsford City from ATR.
RMG manages the rights of many of the leading British racecourses, while SIS holds the horse racing rights to all Irish racecourses, via an agreement with Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR).
This new agreement with RMG was ratified by the AIR racecourses on Tuesday. It will take effect from January 1, 2019, and run until the end of 2023.
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: "This deal is a very positive one and is in the best commercial interests of Irish racing.
"It secures income streams for media rights for the next six years and aligns all of our rights across all platforms with the same strong partners.
"The bulk of those income streams will go to racecourses with the balance going to Horse Racing Ireland - but all of the income will go back into Irish racing. The benefits of this deal will be seen across the entire industry
"This deal means we have moved from a situation of uncertainty in relation to direct to home, streaming and international rights, to arrangements that now have been agreed and locked down until the end of 2023."
But Irish trainer Robbie McNamara has criticised the move, saying that while it will make money for HRI, it's the racing fans who will miss out as they will have to subscribe to At The Races at €31 a month.
"Money talks. What a sorry state we could be in, in 2023 when this tv rights deal finishes," said McNamara on Twitter.
"for HRI but any1 who wants to watch Irish Racing has to fork out over €350 a yr. Not doing myself any favours with authorities saying all this bt they don't seem 2 concerned about me."
RMG chief executive Richard FitzGerald said: "This agreement means for the first time, viewers can enjoy the major storylines of both jumps and Flat seasons in Ireland and Great Britain on one HD channel.
"Our 50,000 members and 6,000 pubs and clubs in Great Britain and Ireland will also enjoy the increasingly popular racing from Chelmsford City, which continues to grow in quality and consistently attracts the best horsemen."
Racing UK said in a statement that it will be "re-branded to reflect the importance of Irish racing to the channel", and that "there are no plans in place" to increase membership fees.
There have been concerns that Irish racing will get lost within the coverage of British fixtures once the switch from At The Races is made next year.
But Racing UK said that "much work will be undertaken to ensure minimum congestion and clashes on race fixtures and times", and added that "recent history shows that Irish and British racing can be successfully accommodated on one channel".
Additional reporting by PA