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Irish spend 22m euro at Cheltenham Festival

AN ECONOMIC Impact Analysis has revealed that people visiting from Ireland spent €22.3m (£19.23m) at the Cheltenham Festival last March, when taking in travel, accommodation, tickets and the all-embracing category of entertainment.

The study was carried out by the Centre for Contemporary Accounting Research at the University of Gloucestershire on behalf of Cheltenham Racecourse, based on 810 completed questionnair responses from people who attended the March jamboree from Ireland.

A press release has been issued and some of the figures are staggering. After the preamble, it goes as follows.

Fans based in Ireland bought 57,375 tickets, or the equivalent of 30% of tickets sold at the prestigious annual event. On average, 14,343 visitors from Ireland attended each day of the four-day Festival. These figures do not include complimentary tickets, hospitality bookings, owners and trainers badges or tickets purchased by further numbers of Irish patrons living in the UK and abroad who also attend The Festival.

The study, which is believed to be the first of its kind, sought to measure the direct economic benefits and participation of attendees who travelled from Ireland to The Festival. The analysis was compiled from 810 completed questionnaires and supplemented by data from Cheltenham Racecourse which showed that there were ticket sales to 12,750 individuals based in Ireland who purchased an average of 4.5 tickets each.

In addition, statistical analysis of ticket booking data has shown that over the past six years, since 2010, the number of Irish ticket bookers at The Festival has increased by 22%.

Commenting, Ian Renton, Regional Director of the South West region of The Jockey Club, said:

"The Festival is one the biggest and most successful sporting occasions of the year involving Britain and Ireland. Over the years, it has become synonymous with Ireland through the participation of its great horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and staff.

"This is the first time we have studied the economic impact of Ireland's participation and the results demonstrate the very significant ongoing role played by Irish fans to the success of The Festival. Irish fans make up close to one-third of our attendance over the week, helping to create a truly unique atmosphere and experience for all racegoers.

"Our mutual love affair with The Festival, of course, involves so much more than statistics. Our shared love and passion for our sport creates an enduring relationship and long may that continue. We look forward greatly to hosting our Irish racegoers once again in a few weeks' time for the 2017 renewal."

Commenting, Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said:


"When Ian was appointed at Cheltenham, I told him he now had one of the most important jobs in Irish racing! We have been aware for some time of the value of the racing and breeding industries to the Irish economy which is estimated at over €1.1 billion per annum, so it is fascinating to now see the value of the Irish impact on Cheltenham.

"Ireland has long had a love affair with Cheltenham because they put on a wonderful festival where we see the best National Hunt horses in the world taking each other on.

"The importance of Cheltenham to Ireland goes beyond just the punters and racegoers as winning there is of vital importance to owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys and can be the highlight of a career, or the making of a horse's pedigree.

"Cheltenham has often been described as the Olympic Games of Jump racing and we are all counting the days to March 14."

In response to the questionnaire, attendees spent an estimated €22.3 million (stg£19.23 million) over the course of the week. The highest spend was on entertainment (betting etc) €5.23 million (£4.5 million), followed by food and drink €4.5 million (£3.87 million), accommodation €4.1 million (£3.54 million) and entry fees €2.6 million (£2.24 million).


Average spends per attendee included: entertainment €556 (£479), tour package €508 (£437), accommodation €419 (£361), and food and drink €374 (£322).

In terms of the relationship between Cheltenham and Irish horsemen (trainers, owners and jockeys), the number of Irish runners has increased significantly over the past two decades.


*2001 - The Festival was cancelled due to foot and mouth

With the numbers of winners seeing a similar pattern. The BetBright Prestbury Cup, the trophy awards to the UK or Ireland depending on who has the most winners over the four days, was won by Ireland for the second time in 2016, with 15 winners to Britain's 13.

Of course the Prestbury Cup is taking the hype way too far. The Irish-English battle is a bit of fun but if you were making this a fair contest, taking the travel into account as well as the percentage of runners, Ireland would have a positive handicap rating. Anytime we produce more than 10 winners is a spectacular return, not to mind the 15 needed to win the stupid thing outright.

Much and all as we are inclined to forget it when some pain-in-the-hole commentator that makes you want to smash your hurley (it's an Irish sporting implement) through the TV screen when he talks for the umpteenth time about the unprecedented brilliance of Nick Skelton, Andy Murray or Joe Hart (how dare Johnny Foreigner Pep consign him to the backwaters and look how it's working for him now?), even if Whitaker is a legend of his sport and Murray will be, and Hart is... ah... a decent 'keeper, we're not short of the jingoism ourselves. And what's more, taking on the old enemy brings out the best and the worst in us in that regard.

But Cheltenham doesn't buy into that. We want our horses to win, unless we really fancy an English-trained one more and back it. 

That's not to say we don't enjoy slaying another over-hyped hotpot but they weren't dancing at the crossroads and singing Olé! Olé! Olé! in the pub until 3am because the Prestbury Cup was coming back home to Ireland. (I know home is Cheltenham, but listen, that's what you say when you win a trophy.)

Who it came home with? Who knows? Wouldn't surprise me if it was left behind in the Weigh Room.

Regardless, we can expect the Irish to boost the local economy some more when it all gets under way in 29 days.

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