Kate Hoey, MP and former Sports Minister, has publicly criticised the BBC for their lack of equestrian coverage during the 2003 European Dressage Championship, which takes place this summer 13-17 August at Hickstead.

Speaking about the refusal of the BBC to cover the event, she said: “There are millions of follows and participants in all branches of equestrian sport who have a right to expect a public broadcast service to pay more attention to minority sporting activities.

“Britain has succeeded in getting this major event for the UK andit would be very short sighted for the BBC to let the opportunity pass of showing and supporting sport at this world class level.”

Show director, Dane Rawlins, confirmed that arrangements were in place for broadcasting from the championships.

“Satellite up-links and facilities for overseas broadcasters are already attracting European television companies and it is a huge disappointment that the BBC have declined to cover the event,” he said.

The European Championships have already attracted support from UK Sport.

“The £180,000 of Lottery funding that UK Sport is investing in the Championships is a significant contribution,” says John Scott, director of major events at UK Sport. “UK Sport is keen to see Olympic sports showcased on home soil and we are determined to use this opportunity to stimulate the development of dressage in this country.”

More than 40 nations have been invited to the championships and up to 20 nations are expected to send both team and individual competitors to contest the coveted European title.

Reigning champion, Ulla Salzegeber, plans to defend her title with her horse, Rusty.

The extra support from the home crowd is expected to lift the British team performance and their chances of success, particularly in their attempt to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The European Dressage Championships will be the last opportunity for teams to qualify for a place at the Games.

Tickets for the championships are available from Ticketmaster (tel: 0870 0602328). For more information on the European Dressage Championships at Hickstead visit: www.edc2003.com

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