THE family behind Hickstead Showground is appealing for help to keep international team show jumping at the popular south-east venue.

The Bunns are urgently seeking sponsorship of £300,000 to bid for the new international team show jumping series planned to replace the Samsung Super League in 2009 (news, 22 May).

“It’s not even a plea to keep the top competition at Hickstead, it’s to keep it in the UK,” said Daisy Bunn, head of sponsorship at Hickstead.

“It is a crisis — as we head towards 2012 it would be a tragedy to lose the only competition in which the British public can currently watch their national team compete on home turf.”

Hickstead, founded in 1960 by Douglas Bunn, has hosted one of the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) Samsung Super League’s eight shows since the series was introduced in 2003.

In May, the FEI announced plans to replace the league with a new-format, richer series, which coincided with an end to Samsung’s six-year sponsorship.

But competition is hot — the FEI is proposing it will run at six venues rather than the eight existing Super League shows, and is asking each venue to guarantee €300,000 prize-money for the grand prix.

“Our current prize-fund for the grand prix is about €75,000, so it is a severe increase,” said Daisy, who was quick to add that Hickstead’s other competitions are not struggling financially nor at risk of losing existing sponsors. “Dad [Douglas Bunn] puts £300,000 into the show and he cannot afford to do it any more.”

She added: “The contract is for three years, so if lost, the UK won’t have another chance even to bid to be a venue again until 2012.”

In addition to the eight existing venues, Spruce Meadows in Calgary has confirmed to H&H it has lodged a bid to host one show in the series.

Vice president Ian Allison said: “We believe Spruce Meadows could be a candidate venue — clearly our location, logistics and a number of other well-established and pre-existing realities will necessitate some discussion.”

FEI spokesman Malina Gueorguiev told H&H the plans were still a “work in progress”.

“Initial proposals are out for consultation with riders, officials and federations,” she said. “Final proposals, including on the venues, will go to the bureau in November.”

Hickstead has recently spent more than £500,000 improving the ground in the international arena, new stabling, riders’ lounge, hospitality areas and access routes to the venue. This year, an all-time record number of spectators attended the Derby meeting, with 18,000 visitors on Saturday, 28 June alone.

If you can help Hickstead tel: 01273 834315.

www.hickstead.co.uk