British Eventing (BE) is satisfied that it is not breaking competition laws after seeking advice from lawyers experienced in competition legislation.
BE sought legal advice after Tweseldown organiser Brynley Powell wrote to the Office of Fair trading (OFT) last October about the control BE has over the sport’s calendar, prize-money and entry fees.
“The legal advice is that there are no grounds for anyone to make a formal complaint with our current structure,” said Peter Durrant, BE chief executive. “The OFT has shown no interest in us whatsoever but if somebody felt they had grounds to make a complaint we would be open and co-operative with any OFT investigation.”
Powell originally wrote to the OFT after BE approved a new CIC three-star at Barbury Castle on a date clashing with Tweseldown, which had been denied permission to run the same level of event.
Durrant explained to H&H that, at the time, he had “not felt it appropriate” to suggest that Tweseldown hold an international CIC because the course is being refurbished.
“In three to five years, Tweseldown could be one of our prestige venues,” continued Durrant. “And the first year for Barbury Castle is very much on the understanding that it is a one-off date, so nothing is set in stone.”
Brynley Powell submitted a letter to the April edition of Eventing magazine, challenging BE to make the legal advice public.
“Peter said he was going to send me a copy of the lawyer’s statement three weeks ago but he hasn’t sent it yet,” said Powell, adding that he couldn’t comment on whether he would make a formal complaint until he had seen the full advice.
Counsel at Brick Court Chambers has advised BE that it is not operating a “restricted practice” under the Competition Act 1998. It concluded that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) would be unlikely to investigate if a complaint were made.
But BE has started to take a new approach to its calendar. A fixtures secretary was taken on last year and Mike Tucker, new BE chairman, has set up a committee to monitor the fixtures list.