The management of the eventing fixtures list has been questioned with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) by Brynley Powell, who runs Tweseldown, following the insertion of a new CIC*** at Barbury Castle into next year’s calendar.
The new Barbury CIC will clash with Tweseldown, which has itself been denied permission to run a CIC.
Powell told Horse & Hound Online that he had lodged his enquiry with the OFT following the body’s recent ruling on how the Jockey Club allocates racing fixtures. He felt that there were many parallels with the current situation at British Eventing.
“I think fixtures are a nightmare and I don’t endorse a free for, but if you had a protocol, which BE had, and you don’t obey your own rules, you can’t expect other people to obey them either,” said Powell.
“The way the Barbury Castle CIC was put into the calendar prompted me [to write to the OFT]. BE need to come up with something that will work and they should take the views of the organisers on board.”
Powell said he would like the allocation of dates to be “more competitive”.
“At the moment, you don’t compete with anyone for a date and that can’t be very good for the sport because competition improves things,” he explained.
BE’s chief executive Peter Durrant confirmed at the association’s AGM last week that lawyers had been consulted after Powell wrote to the OFT
Peter Durrant said: “We haven’t had an answer from the OFT, but there is concern as to whether we risk contravening competition laws. We will take note in future of protocols, but decisions have been taken in the best interest of the sport. I am nervous of a ruling saying it must be a free-for-all.”
Board director Nick Burd agreed: “We are aware that Barbury Castle has caused disquiet, we haven’t done as well as we should with dates. It will be addressed.”
Despite the appointment and methodical approach of a dedicated fixtures manager, Paul Elliot, the calendar remains a thorny subject. Although there has been an increase in events (182, up 7.7%), the number of starters is also up (by 16% to 59,079), so balloting has increased (by 6.8% to 3,080).
Owner-breeder Johnny Johnston asked whether aiming to increase membership was realistic if not everyone could be catered for.
Paul Elliot, who has studied questionnaires from 1,400 members about competing patterns, said: “We still have a shortage of competitions so will be looking at extra events and days to reduce balloting and returning of entries.”