Friday, February 4, 2011

Money Matters

Money Matters

By Stephen Dwyer



€169.21 is the riding fee for a professional National Hunt jockey in Ireland. Out of that amount, €8.97 is deducted for the Jockeys’ Accident Fund. A further €1.65 goes to the provision of medical and ambulance services at race meetings. Not too many people pay for the privilege of an ambulance following them at their place of work, the riding fee is well earned.

Last season, Paul Carberry rode 263 horses in Ireland, his combined riding fees amounted to €44,502. Supplementing this, his 10% share of prize money won totalled €60,568, taking his yearly earnings on the track to around €105,000. For the toils he exerts on his body, it is a small amount. He must take daily medication for his missing spleen following a fall at Noel Meade’s gallops in 1999 this resulted in a five month layoff. His body has suffered a litany of injuries, a punctured lung, multiple rib fractures, collar bone. It’s a long list for someone who turns 37 next week.

Throughout his career, Paul Carberry has always represented the grass roots of horse racing in Ireland. His forthcoming autobiography is entitled “Swinging from the Rafters”. The apt naming of the book is a reference to the time he caught and swung from the rafters of the winning enclosure at Aintree when he won the Grand National aboard Bobbjo.

Another time in Fethard, he rode a horse into the snug of McCarthy’s bar, just for a laugh, he admitted. You get the inkling that Carberry is a likeable rogue who answers to no-one. His graft and honesty are the seat of his popularity among punters and fans of the sport.

On the other end of the scale, Horse Racing Ireland is the governing body of horse racing in Ireland. It is somewhat of a unique entity. It is one of the only commercial semi-state organisations in existence whose remit extend into Northern Ireland. The two racecourses in Northern Ireland, Down Royal and Downpatrick, are under the control of the HRI and not the British Horseracing Authority.

HRI also owns Fairyhouse, Leopardstown, Navan and Tipperary racecourses. The HRI group also operate the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and the Tote.

Like most of us, HRI did not escape the consequences of the budget, a €1.6 million reduction in their funding resulted in a drop in prize money, but they are still an expensive organisation to run.

The salary of Brian Kavangh, current CEO of HRI is €175,200. On the face of it, this is about four times as much as a staff nurse. Granted, his responsibilities are significant. He is responsible for the overall administration of horse racing in Ireland and the promotion of the sport internationally. Still, his salary is greater than that of the CEO is Bord Bia, or indeed the Health and Safety Authority or the Higher Education Authority.

For a key position, Kavanagh is well compensated. In 2008 he earned €313,000. He received massive bonuses worth €65,000 for 2008 and €57,000 in respect of his performance in 2009. To his credit, Kavanagh took a voluntary pay reduction of just over 8 per cent in 2010. That said, he still earns a gross figure a shade under €3,370 per week.

The Irish Bookmakers Association recently called for a reform of the way revenue is spent at HRI. Whether or not the HRI represents value for money is of course subjective. There are many top-class facilities for jockeys and trainers at racecourses, yet until recently there were race courses that did not even have separate changing rooms for female and male jockeys.

From a regulatory perspective, HRI are subject to an annual audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The administration costs have reduced by over 28% since 2008 and the group has shed 33 staff, from 177 to 143.

Ireland enjoys an enviable position as a leading horse racing nation worldwide.HRI do have a long term funding program in place to boost growth within the industry. Whether it is a case of spending more wisely, frugally or creating new initiatives to protect the industry, only time will tell.

All eyes are now on you Mr. Kavanagh. Don’t let us down.