Chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh has defended the decision to allow Irish racing media rights move to Racing UK.

The HRI will end their association with At The Races from 2019, a channel which is available as part of most basic Sky television packages.

Racing UK is a premium channel which will cost viewers an extra €31 a month, leading to criticism from the likes of Robbie McNamara, that viewers could be priced out of watching Irish racing.

However, speaking on 2FM’s Game On, Kavanagh insisted that the move was a positive one for Irish racing and that is will help secure the future of the sport here.

"Overall you have to look at media rights in the round and this is a very good commercial decision for Irish racing, in terms of protecting our media rights values for the next six years," he insisted.

"We have a situation now where our media rights across all platforms – betting shops, streaming, international sales and direct to home – are aligned with the same partners for long term security.

"That’s a very important result for Irish racing and it’s a very strong commercial outcome for Irish racing.

"There will be an increase in revenue and media rights have grown over the last number of years, so it’s positive in that sense.

"The media rights income is probably the second largest income stream for the racing sector in Ireland, so it’s an important area."

Kavanagh also sought to downplay the added cost that the audience will be asked to shoulder when Irish racing moves to Racing UK, claiming that there is no guarantee that At The Races would continue to be available to viewers for no extra fee.

"You have to remember that At the Races is not free either, it’s part of a Sky package overall along with a load of other channels," he said.

"The situation with sports broadcasting now, is it’s changing so rapidly. Sky are reorganising their sports packages into specific packages for each sport, so there’s no certainty whether channels will remain part of a standard Sky package or whether they will go up in cost in the future."

Irish viewers will still be able to access free to air coverage of major Irish meetings however as, RTÉ last week announced a new broadcasting deal for increased live coverage of Irish horse racing for the next three years on terrestrial television.

Under that new agreement, RTÉ will broadcast between 25 and 27 days of live Irish racing television coverage each year for the next three years, featuring the great days of all the major festivals, with live television coverage also simulcast on RTÉ Player within the Republic of Ireland.