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Road racing death knell claims played down

16 January 2013

Irish road racing's governing body has played down claims a significant insurance hike could spell the end for a number of national events in 2013.

The cost of providing insurance cover for race meetings in Northern Ireland such as the Cookstown 100 and Mid Antrim 150 has soared by £3,455 from £12,315 to £15,770.

Both the international North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix meetings also face an increase in insurance costs of 27% from £23,810 to £30,130.

It is a worrying setback for Irish national road racing, which is struggling in an already difficult financial climate and has been left reeling following the retirement of two of its biggest names – Ryan Farquhar and Adrian Archibald.

And Mervyn Whyte, event director at the North West 200, feels the soaring cost of insurance premiums could sound the death knell for some Irish road races.

“I am sure that some of the smaller races will struggle to meet these extra costs and it will have a major impact on the sport,” said Whyte.

“There are now only a few companies interested in insuring road racing and the cost is soaring.”

Bill Kennedy, clerk of the course at the Armoy road races and a brother of former Armoy Armada hero Frank, provided a more damning verdict as he forecast the 'definite' end of some smaller races in Northern Ireland.

“We had no choice but accept this, our backs were against the wall. We tried to get an alternative quote but it was over £100,000 more expensive again,” said Kennedy.

“I think that this will definitely lead to the demise of National road races in particular because every cost in organising a race is rising and something will have to give.”

The reason behind the spiralling insurance premiums is a rising number of personal injury claims and claims for minor falls and accidents at road races.

However, Jack Agnew, chairman of the sport's governing body in Ulster – the Motorcycle Union of Ireland – is refusing to press the panic button just yet.

“As it stands right now, every race on the calendar is going ahead this year, although the Bush meeting was an uncertainty as the club had yet to have their meeting prior to our centre meeting [to discuss the insurance costs].

“It's up to every club now to look at ways of attracting additional sponsorship and alternative means of bringing extra money into the sport,” Agnew told the Belfast News Letter.

“It will be difficult, but as an organisation we will try to make the sport as cost-effective as possible.”

Agnew is hopeful new legislation will be brought in to grant the organisers of road races the powers to charge an admission fee to their events to help offset the financial implications of hefty insurance bills.

Currently, only the Ulster Grand Prix can charge spectators an entry fee, with other events relying solely on revenue from programme sales and sponsorship to fund their races.

“The wheels have been set in motion and we're seeking legislation to charge admission fees which hopefully will be in place by 2015,” Agnew said.

“I'm not saying this will be the be all and end all, but it will help clubs bring in much-needed revenue for their events.”


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