Mark Phillips: Dismay at a dysfunctional process *H&H VIP*

Opinion

I should be excited about the new season but I remain dismayed at what is happening at British Eventing (BE).

When BE announced the 2020 strategic review, I was pleased — I hoped it would result in a more balanced calendar, with prestigious classes given to progressive organisers and some of the “dead wood” removed.

Sadly, the BE board were also telling regional coordinators at the time not to allow any new events unless they could guarantee them 500 entries and two days of cross-country.

I don’t know any fixture that started that way, which makes the future look bleak. Would not members rather go to a quality event with one day of cross-country and an organiser raising income outside entry fees?

The actual review started on the wrong foot with a repetitive questionnaire for organisers.

Events were then given marks, which should have been allotted by more than one person with on-the-ground experience of that event, but it appears that was not the case.

When marks were at odds with years of ratings from technical advisors and rider reps, and multi-event organisers were given an eight at one fixture and a five at another for identical services, there was a loss of faith in the process. It’s like dressage judges — nobody minds if there is a low judge as long as they are consistent, but for one horse to be judged by the low judge and the next by the high judge is unfair.

I’d love to know who gave the marks for the “commercial” side. As far as I am concerned, there is nobody at BE even remotely qualified to judge events’ sponsorship approach and implementation.

Events who wanted to appeal were given their marks, but no reason for them, so organisers were expected to appeal without knowing what they were appealing against.

Small wonder then that some appeals were dismissed out of hand by the fixtures panel, in a letter that seemed to have been written by a lawyer. This led many to believe BE was receiving legal advice to tough it out, in the hope the complainants would lose heart or lack the finance to continue.

The process would have been better if a team had done an event inspection and explained its marks, so organisers understood what they had to improve and were given credit for changes they planned if they made a successful bid.

As the disquiet spreads, so the stories start to come out. I’ve seen emails from BE reassuring an event it was doing a good job and discussing the event’s future in 2020 and beyond; the event then lost its championship. Is this a case of left hand and right hand or just a dysfunctional process with no credibility?

Website woes

Talking of dysfunctional, I’m no internet guru but I’ve met no one who can use the new BE website effectively. Have we spent nearly £2m on a product that does not work? Maybe we would have been better to follow British Showjumping and spend our cash on a state-of-the-art training facility.

I’m hoping for a brighter future, but not holding my breath. Let’s hope that the result of well-intentioned ideas is not the loss of some of our best and most philanthropic organisers, and that one day we get a website that makes members’ lives easier instead of an interminable nightmare.

Ref Horse & Hound; 28 March 2019