SERIOUS questions have been raised over the way the British Eventing (BE) board is conducting business and spending members’ money.

The debate opened last week when BE announced business director Terry Bailey had “decided not to return to work following a major operation”.

At the same time, the BE board reported the promotion of its former director of sport, Mike Etherington-Smith, to chief executive — 18 months after it made the role and last occupant Peter Durrant — redundant.

Plans for BE to move its headquarters into another building at Stoneleigh, away from the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), have also been a focus for concern.

H&H spoke to a number of individuals who expressed worries at the turn of events and what they perceived to be unnecessary spending.

While many declined to be named, former chief executive Peter Durrant said he now had “absolutely no confidence” in the current board.

Mr Durrant said the decision to make the role of chief executive redundant had coincided with him “enforcing board procedures that were part of my remit as chief executive and board director”.

Aside from concerns that a move was “unnecessary spending in the present economic climate”, he believes BE’s plans to move away from the BEF are “worrying”.

He said: “My personal belief is that not sticking with the BEF is part of a wish to be independent.”

BE president Jane Holderness-Roddam also expressed concern to H&H about the board’s recent financial decisions.

“We’re all concerned about the global financial situation and hope BE will respect members’ interests for caution at this difficult time,” she said.

Chairman Alexandra Fox had previously told H&H the move was necessary because there was not enough room at BE’s current headquarters.

“We are growing — we had a seven per cent increase in membership last year — and we need more room. Our filing is in a portable building and we don’t have a meeting room,” she said. “But we’ve negotiated a very reasonable price and hope to move when refurbishment is finished on the building, which we are not paying for.”

She refused to respond to rumours that Mr Bailey had, in fact, been dismissed by the board.

And when she was asked why a chief executive had been appointed so soon after the role had been deemed “unnecessary” by the board, she said she needed to speak to lawyers and hung up.

Read this story in full, including comments from Mike Etherington-Smith and BEF chief executive Andrew Finding, in the current issue of Horse & Hound (20 Nov, ’08)