British Eventing (BE) has confirmed that £2030,000 of entry money taken via the internet by Eddie Stuart on behalf of horse trials organisers has gone missing, and that it is working on a solution that will see neither organisers nor BE out of pocket.
BE chief executive Peter Durrant is to meet Mr Stuarts accountant and lawyer to try to resolve the situation.
Theres no excuse for it. I have no sympathy and Im driving a hard bargain, he says.
Durrant insists that the moneys disappearance is simply down to Mr Stuarts poor organisation and cash flow, and says that there is no need at this point for police involvement.
Having known the guy for a long time, theres no criminal intent if there had been, he could have taken an awful lot more money and done a runner, he says. If the police become involved, there are no real winners his assets would be frozen, leaving a bigger risk of organisers getting nothing.
Mr Stuart is not an employee of British Eventing. Internet entries, and payment for them, are taken by three or four individuals (endorsed by BE) at the request of various individual horse trials organisers. One of the most commonly used websites in recent years has been www.eventing.net, owned and run by Mr Stuart.
Although we dont have a legal obligation [to pay back monies owed], we felt that BE events had limited options in opportunities we gave to them, explains Tim Hadaway, BE sport and technical director. We feel a moral responsibility to ensure the satisfaction of the organisers. It is not in our interests to see them out of pocket.
The money generated from Internet entries varies with each event, and those affected range from the small one-day Auchinleck to the large Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park. In some cases, the deficit, if not paid, could mean that the smaller events may be not be able to afford to run in 2004.
Tim Hadaway confirms that, in light of recent events, BE is working on its own Internet entry package, which will come as good news to anxious organisers. The system will take two to three months to set up and put in place.
In the meantime, competitors can enter online via Internet site www.bdwp.co.uk, which is another site endorsed by British Eventing.