British Eventing has appointed a healing figure as its new chairman in the hope to put an end to the turmoil surrounding the finances of Windsor International Horse Trials.

BE steward and chairman of the rules committee, Sir William Aldous PC, was co-opted to the Board and unanimously elected chairman at a Board meeting last Saturday. He replaces Mike Tucker (pictured), who resigned on 13 September, after it emerged that Windsor International Horse Trial, of which Tucker was also chairman, had incurred a significant loss.

In an interview with Horse&Hound on 22 September, Tucker made it clear that his role at Windsor had been supervisory “but nothing more” and that resigning from the BE chairman post had not been his choice.

“I would like to make it clear that I was given no alternative than to tender my resignation,” he said. “Having had the sport’s best interests at heart over a good number of years, I am extremely unhappy at the situation in which I find myself.”

Although the BE Board has now replied that they accepted Tucker’s resignation with regret and that they hoped he would continue to contribute to eventing, many members were dismayed at this turn of events, as letters to Horse & Hound testify.

Sir William now finds himself in the unenviable position of having to end the strife that has plagued the sport during the last two months. However, he appears ready to rise to the challenge.

“I am delighted to accept this appointment,” he said. “My immediate aim is to heal the wounds that have arisen as a result of the Windsor loss and to move the sport forward with the help of the Board and all the members.”

His task may be helped by the fact that BE has now released the results of the auditing process on Windsor’s accounts. Saffery Champness found that Windsor made a loss of £108,979 against a forecast of £33,775. This was due both to a drop in revenues, which were £24,925 down on budget, and an increase in expenses, which overshot the budget by £50,279. The total cost to BE, however, was higher, because the federation also contributed £25,000 towards Windsor’s costs and carried forward the surplus from the previous edition of the show.

The report highlighted that there was no impropriety at Windsor, rather, it seems that the culprit for the financial hole is a mix of miscommunication and lack of clear remits and reporting lines. Saffery Champness found that BE’s finance department had no input in drawing Windsor’s budget. Windsor’s director Jonathan Warr told the auditors that management meetings took place regularly with BE’s event management team and that, at those meetings, authorisation was given to undertake or change a course of action on different elements of the event’s organisation. According to Saffery Champness, however, there was no formal procedure in place to ensure that “the WIHT Management Team had agreed and understood any changes to their expenditure budgets.”

Although accounting records were held by BE at Stoneleigh, Warr and his team dealt with all purchase ordering and sales invoicing at Windsor, and no limits were ever set on Warr’s authority. It would appear that, by April 2005, Warr became aware of a shortage of sponsorship funds and revised the budget to anticipate a loss of £49,969, but Saffery Champness report that the new figures were not circulated to the BE finance department, business team or Board.

To avoid similar problems happening again, Saffery Champness recommend that BE adopts some common-sense rules, starting with the introduction of a purchase ordering system for Windsor International Horse Trials. They also suggested that BE define and limit the event team’s spending powers and make sure that one of their representatives attends event meetings. Budgets should always be prepared by BE’s financial accountant in conjunction with the event director, and BE’s accountant should review them every month. Every three months, revised forecast should go to the business team and BE Board for review. The BE Board should also be aware of any expenditure that goes beyond budget. No event should run if the Board doesn’t approve its budget.

BE has clarified that some of the recommendations put forward by Saffery Champness have already been implemented at the other two BE-owned events, Blenheim and Burghley.

“The Board and Executive have for some time been concerned about the autonomy enjoyed by BE-owned event Directors,” they said in a statement. “Members should know that many of the [Saffery Champness] recommendations are already in place at Burghley and Blenheim. All of [their] recommendations will be considered by the Board and Executive no later than the end of January 2006, with a view to implementation at the earliest opportunity.”

While BE ponder on Saffery Champness’ suggestions, however, Windsor’s former event director voices his disagreement with the auditors’ findings. “The report contains factual inaccuracies,” says Warr. “The figures, for example, I would dispute, because they don’t add up.”

Warr says that at some stage in the future he would like to “present exactly what happened, factually, actually and responsibly.” In the meantime, he says, “I hope Sir William does a good job, but I think the truth needs to come out before we get close to healing the sport.”