The British Show Jumping Association is looking at changing its constitution to “bring the management of show jumping in line with modern practice,” according to chairman John Jacks.

If approved, the new constitution will spell out specific goals for the association — first and foremost of which is achieving international success. “We are highly successful with our young riders and I am pleased to say we are becoming more successful with our adult riders,” says Jacks.

The BSJA will also set out to develop the sport in the UK and expand its membership, as well as pursue the somewhat nebulous aim of becoming a highly effective organisation. “We feel we need to look at the way the BSJA is run,” Jacks clarifies. “It has been run along similar lines for many years and we need to ask ourselves: is this still relevant in today’s market? We need to be aware we have to move in the 21st century and stay there.”

To do so, the Executive Board is proposing some dramatic changes. In a bid to expand membership, criteria may be relaxed to include every level and type of rider. “My thinking is that anyone who jumps a coloured pole should be member of the BSJA,” says Jacks. “Whether this means creating a special membership, I don’t know. But unaffiliated show jumping is very strong in this country and we have several thoughts, which we hope will come into fruition next year.”

The association may rethink the way the sport is run in the UK. “We will be looking at our structure, how classes are done and whether we should be grading shows,” says Jacks. Breeding will also come under the spotlight, with a view to create established breeding and training programmes along the lines of those currently in place in Germany and Holland.

Under the new constitution, the BSJA council will be elected in the same way the Executive Board is appointed at the moment. Members will choose eight national representatives, 10 regional representatives, two scottish representatives and a president, who will serve for two years and will set out policy guidelines.

The council will also be able to co-opt members to ensure that every facet of the association — from riders to junior parents, owners to show organisers — is properly represented. “If no rider were elected to the council and we felt we needed this expertise, we could co-opt a rider,” Jacks explains.

By contrast, the Executive Board will be selected from and by the BSJA council, and will only have eight directors — compared to the 22 it has today. Each director will be appointed to the board for two years and will be responsible for a specific task, such as Elite Performance Development, Finance and Treasury or Development of Show Jumping in the UK.

“Members will have a clear point of contact and will know who to go to, whereas in the past all went back to the board,” says Jacks, who brought up this very point in an open letter to BSJA members earlier this week. “I believe this new constitution will enable the association to be directed in an open and transparent manner, leaving no doubt as to where responsibility lies,” he wrote.

The BSJA started looking at its constitution after a report by business consultants Deloitte & Touche suggested that the association’s Executive Board was too large and unmanageable. This prompted an internal revision process, which culminated in a two-day meeting at Stoneleigh Park last week, where the Executive Board put together their vision for the future.

However, four members of the current board — former chairman Peter Gillespie, Graham Hudson, Marcia Pepperall and Jane Twemlow — disagreed with the proposal to appoint the new Executive Board from the BSJA council, and resigned.

“They felt that board members should be elected independently rather than from the council,” says Jacks. “The remainder of the board felt that it would be ridiculous not to use the council expertise in the formation of the board. We also felt that if the Executive Board were elected independently, we would have no jurisdiction over what they did and it would be more difficult to do anything if things weren’t run properly.”

BSJA members will have their say on the new constitution at the association’s EGM, which will take place at Stoneleigh Park on 12 January ’05. “The members will have their vote as to whether this is the way they want to go forward,” says Jacks. “I am looking forward to a positive vote at the EGM.”