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Point-to-point riders will soon be able to be sponsored for the first time in the sport’s history.

The new season starts on 28 November and in a plan trialled by the Point-to-Point Authority (PPA), riders can now gain sponsorship of up to £950 to pay for equipment and licences.

In return they will carry sponsors’ names on breeches and/or on the neck of polo undershirts.

“Rider numbers have gone down fairly consistently over the past decade,” the PPA’s Heather Kemp told H&H.

“Many riders are on a tight budget and sponsorship could make a significant difference. And this will help younger riders increase their business sense.”

The PPA’s Lucy Tucker added: “In 1997, there were 1,500 riders and last year 800. Cost has been an issue and there are so many more choices out there — polo or eventing — pointing has to fight for its place in the market.”

Two years ago, the PPA introduced a horse sponsorship scheme (news, 6 November 2008), the first time sponsorship was allowed in the sport.

“We are an amateur sport, but to say riders can’t be sponsored would mean getting left behind. It was supported in consultation and we will see how it goes this year,” said Mrs Tucker.

Mrs Kemp said the PPA had received many enquiries since launching the scheme on 27 September. Though riders must find their own sponsors, the PPA will be on hand to advise.

The money is not given directly to riders, but a minimum of £300 and maximum of £950 can be paid into a bank account administered by the PPA in the name of the rider.

The money can be used to buy helmets, body protectors and saddles and also be put towards rider’s qualification certificates.

It cannot be used for British Horseracing Authority fines nor work clothing.

The rider will say what they need and the PPA will order the equipment. The organisation says this is to ensure pointing is kept as essentially an amateur sport and monitor what help the rider is receiving.

Top pointing rider and H&H columnist Polly Gundry said: “It is a brilliant idea that will bring the sport in line with the rest of racing. It will be a big help to jockeys and will make the sport a bit more feasible.”

Rider Richard Burton added: “People don’t realise quite how costs mount up.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (7 October, ’10)