British Eventing (BE) will cancel events that fail to come up to standard in the future, sport director Mike Etherington-Smith said at a seminar before the Event Horse Owners’ Association (EHOA) AGM in London last Wednesday (4 July, ’07).

“We’re going to be more ruthless with events that don’t match up,” he said. “A few will drop off the bottom and I bet then some others will sharpen up their acts.”

Mr Etherington-Smith added that BE is putting pressure on organisers to think about how they manage their ground.

“The problem is that you can put a huge amount of money into ground and it’s never visible, and can — if the weather turns against you — be wasted in the short term.”

BE is also channeling its energy into a television and sports marketing strategy.

“Selling the sport is not as easy as it sounds because BE doesn’t own the events,” explained BE business committee chairman Chris Gillespie.

In order to give BE control of media rights, Mr Etherington-Smith said organisers will have to accept tighter affiliation agreements next year.

In addition, Mr Gillespie said the agreement between BE and Badminton would be formalised.
Badminton and Burghley together put £500,000 into BE’s coffers. But while Burghley is a joint venture between the estate and BE — guaranteeing the income if the event runs successfully — Badminton’s contribution is not guaranteed, something BE chairman Alex Fox is working to change.

“Beyond the levy every event pays, we have no right to demand anything from Badminton,” said Mr Gillespie. “There is a lot of goodwill there, but we are trying to formalise the arrangement.”

Mr Etherington-Smith gave an overview of his priorities, putting “growing the sport in a manageable and achievable way” top.

“The sport has slightly plateaued here. It’s healthy enough, but there’s no room for complacency,” he said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 July, ’07)