It was great to see Britain’s junior team win the Nations Cup in Wierden this week (see report, p60) — a result which was all the more impressive given that their funding has been axedby the British Equestrian Federation (BEF). It’s the only success a British showjumping team has had this season. Considering that we’re not even jumping in the top division for senior Nations Cups, some of our results have been appalling. The BEF’s World Class Programme has been in place long enough now that I believe this is the product of their system and something has to change.
While I applaud Nick Skelton’s directness in his straight-to-the point column on the BEF’s decision-making (H&H, 1 June), there is even more devil in the detail when it comes to the funding situation between the BEF and British Showjumping (BS). As Nick mentioned, BEF director Clare Salmon’s decision to cut funding to the youth teams has meant the loss of chef d’equipes Matt Lanni and Alan Fazakerley. The increased workload on Clare Whitaker and Tony Newbery meant they had 32 riders to chef across the four teams at Wierden. They were exhausted at the end of each day.
British Showjumping has had £70k-£80k in funding cut by the BEF. Interestingly, BS have to pay the BEF £70k each year just to be part of the national federation. You have to ask, what are we getting for that money?
Taking the wrong tactic
It’s the time of year when the BEF is reinviting applications for the World Class Programme. It continues to put money into riders who ultimately haven’t been able to deliver the goods when it matters. You would never see a football club putting out invitations for their team. There are good riders out there but we should be going out and hand-picking the ones we want.
If the youth teams are doing better than the senior teams, it’s because they are solely the work of BS and not the BEF. I would like to see the lottery funding from UK Sport going directly to BS. Then we could have a professional three-man committee in charge with strong knowledge of the sport and it would be up to them to identify who needs backing and distribute the funds accordingly. The most important thing about any new system is that it needs to be more flexible. As it stands, you can’t blame Di Lampard for poor results on the Nations Cup circuit. She’s doing the best job possible with the riders the World Class Programme has been putting through.
One rider who has been a notable exception in the Nations Cup this year is William Funnell, who produced a double clear in Copenhagen with Billy Buckingham (see report, 8 June). He now has his sights firmly set on the Hickstead Derby next week (June 22-25), and he could well win it. He’s had a plan from the word go for Billy Buckingham and he’s executing it perfectly — and no, he’s not even on the World Class Programme. In fact, he was taken off it after London 2012 — as was Nick Skelton. The apparent foresight in doing that was that by the next Olympics, there would be better riders to replace them with. Four years on that was certainly not the case.
Ref Horse & Hound; 15 June 2017