Endurance GB (EGB) has accepted a “blanket” sponsorship from Sheikh Mohammed’s Meydan corporation, following an unprecedented members’ ballot of 570 to 405.

“A majority of EGB’s members have voted ‘yes’ in the recent ballot regarding proceeding with a proposed sponsorship agreement with Meydan,” said John Hudson, chairman of EGB.

The overall turnout was 55.2% (1010 members), with 56.4% (570) votes in favour of accepting the sponsorship, with 40.1% (405) against and 3.5% (35) abstentions.

“The proposed agreement, which offers benefits for all levels of the EGB membership, will enhance EGB’s ability to realise its long-term strategy and vision: to enable more people and horses at all levels to enjoy the sport of endurance to the highest standard of excellence,” added Mr Hudson.

The three-year deal, for an undisclosed sum, covers EGB’s entire international calendar, new technology and training bursaries.

It also reinstates three FEI rides at Euston Park, which were cancelled in 2013 when UAE doping and horse injury scandals drew worldwide media attention. These will involve inclusion in a global series announced by Meydan last week, just 48 hours after the EGB ballot closed.

However, debate has raged for months about the wisdom of allying the UK sport with the emirate at the heart of doping and horse injury scandals.

The idea provoked a storm of protest on EGB’s members-only forum and already some “no” voters have taken to the EGB forum to state they will not rejoin the organisation.

Barbury FEI ride organiser Linda Kidd was among members who lobbied for members to have the right to decide.

She said: “The board now has the responsibility to ensure that the proper arrangements are put in place to meet the expectations of all of the membership who voted, particularly on matters to do with horse welfare and compliance with FEI rules.”

Last year when questioned by H&H John Hudson said that EGB is financially sound and not reliant on the Meydan backing.

“EGB believes that inclusiveness, not exclusion, is the key to improving standards and culture,” he said.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 15 January 2015