The third Annual General Meeting for AIRO Racing CLG took place on Tuesday 18th April in ITBA HQ both in person and by electronically via zoom.
Chairman David Hyland welcomed all attendees and informed them that AIRO had gotten firmly back on track last year and enjoyed a tremendously productive 2022. He noted the focus of AIRO’s board members and management was placed on forging strong links with industry stakeholders. He advised that they attended numerous meetings throughout the year, through the seats on HRI boards, working committees and industry meetings to discuss every aspect of the game on behalf of owners. He paid tribute to AIRO’s former manager Aiden Burns who passed away earlier this year after a brief illness.
He highlighted a number of issues affecting our industry that AIRO felt must be addressed on behalf of owners:
Prize-Money – This is the most essential and most worrying issue affecting Irish owners at present. He explained in recent years we have seen increases of prize-money at the very top level of racing but the middle section in both codes have not received any increase in prize-money since 2008. The 2022 HRI factbook states that Owners are now contributing 25% of the prize-money pot, the largest owners contribution in Europe. HRI Chairman, Nicky Hartery and CEO Suzanne Eade have both stated in recent times that prizemoney is a priority for HRI, for the retention of owners going forward, it is essential that these prizemoney promises are delivered upon. He noted that AIRO have written to HRI, who are currently negotiating the next media rights deal, and proposed that a portion of the new media rights deal income be ring-fenced for prizemoney and the race-day experience for owners. He asked that any increase in prize-money be better dispersed across all levels especially the middle sector which he believes is critical for the retention of owners.
AIR - He expressed AIRO’s concern about the ongoing situation between racecourses in the agreement of the aforementioned media rights deal. He noted the hopes from AIRO that Association of Irish Racecourses can a find a quick resolution to the situation and urged them to take a cohesive stand, work together and solidify the financial future for the whole industry and the 29,000 jobs involved.
Retention of Owners – Mr Hyland was anxious to re-iterate AIRO’s concern for the retention of owners. He noted that the industry are heavily reliant on Racecourses to provide a Race day experience for Owners that will entice them to come back and re-invest time and time again. He further explained that in the majority of cases, racecourses are putting in a tremendous effort and are ticking every box. He thanked those managers and teams involved for all they do and ask that they continue their superb efforts in raising the bar. He also noted there are some racecourses, that view owners as a drain on their resources and he took this opportunity to remind them that collectively owners are contributing between €250 - €300 million annually and through their investment are a vital cog to the success of the Irish Racing industry. To this end, AIRO are working with other industry stakeholders to ensure a minimum standard at all racecourses. He explained that AIRO have harnessed very good working relationships with all industry stake-holders and are working closely with them all for the good of Irish Racing.
Welfare – He noted that as the representative body for owners and as owners, we are extremely cognisant of our responsibilities regarding welfare and the post-racing career of our horses. AIRO put together a pamphlet last year entitled ‘Simple guide to responsible ownership’ reminding owners of their responsibilities outlining the various different options available to owners for an alternative career for retired racehorses. AIRO are running a golf tournament in Mount Juliet on Wednesday 24th May, 2023 in conjunction with the trainers association with the full proceeds going to TREO EILE, the charity involved with retraining and rehoming retired racehorses. Teams (of 4) are €850 and as there are still a few tee-times available and he called on all industry golfing enthusiasts to call the AIRO office and register a team.
Jacqueline Kelly from the company auditors, SCD Accountants Ltd ran through the financial statements for 2022 and company secretary Regina Byrne reviewed the many activities for AIRO during the year and complimented the board for their participation with a special reference to our HRI Representative Caren Walsh for her selfless commitment to Irish Owners.
David Hyland announced that there was no election as there was one board position available and we received one nomination form duly completed and signed. He bid farewell to our friend and comrade Bill Bourke, who resigned his seat on the board. Bill has served on this board for many, many years in many different roles but primarily as treasurer in recent times. He stated that Bill had embraced all of those roles with infectious enthusiasm and unfailing loyalty to Owners. He thanked him sincerely for his immense contribution and noted that he will be sorely missed by us all. He welcomed Mark Molloy, a highly respected Owner/Breeder and businessman from Co. Tipperary and thanked him for putting himself forward and looked forward to working together.
Mr Hyland concluded by stating that AIRO will continue to grow and encouraged all owners to get involved. He reminded Owners that third party liability insurance is included in our list of membership benefits which also includes half-price RacingTV. He also reminded members/owners that the AIRO Marquee is available in the reserved enclosure for the Punchestown Festival, where a cuppa, some light refreshments and a welcome seat are available and encouraged members to call the office for information. He finished by noting that AIRO have an open-door policy and owners are invited to call in or phone Regina in the office should they wish to get any information. He thanked the board of directors and management for their time and efforts and the owners for their continued support of the industry.