‘The danger is the calendar will collapse’: eventing abandonment insurance to be reviewed

  • British Eventing (BE) has announced a “full stakeholder review” of abandonment insurance, as the fixtures calendar continues to be hindered by cancellations.

    In the latest blow, Somerford Park International, which was due to hold classes from novice to CCI3*-S, announced its 30 June–2 July event is off. Organiser Debbie King said Somerford is “not prepared to run without abandonment insurance”.

    “Having built up trust with our client base over several years we are not prepared to jeopardise this and leave clients out of pocket in a challenging economic climate,” she said. “We self-insured last year and due to the high volume of cancellations this year the cost for us to insure has escalated by over 100%, something we simply cannot afford to absorb along with the other escalating costs.”

    BE said in light of the “unprecedented abandonments due to the prolonged adverse weather” it is undertaking a “full stakeholder review of the existing arrangements in relation to abandonment insurance”.

    This follows the cancellation of Rockingham International (18–21 May), as the ground had not dried “sufficiently to allow the event to proceed in a safe manner”. Chatsworth International (12–14 May) cancelled some classes, including the CCI2*-S, after heavy rain. Chepstow at Howick (16–17 May) also abandoned because of the weather.

    Rockingham organisers said they are working with their insurer to “establish next steps in terms of refunds and will be in touch with everyone as soon as they know more”. Chatsworth confirmed the event has insurance “so will be refunding as much, over and above the BE minimum refunds, as the insurance company is prepared to pay”, while Chepstow organisers are also working with their insurers. To date this season, 18 events have been affected by cancellations, the refund status for some is still to be confirmed.

    In 2021 there was debate about BE’s decision to scrap its abandonment insurance (news, 9 December). This meant organisers could take out their own insurance or self-insure, alongside BE’s minimum refund policy. Under the standard BE policy, if events cancel between five days of the event starting and 5pm the afternoon before, a 15% refund will be applied. But if an event has its own abandonment insurance, refunds of up to 100% could be applied, depending on the policy and the claim being accepted.

    Now the topic is back on the table, with some riders and owners raising concerns about refund amounts, the time it takes to receive a refund, and the varying levels of communication from events. One amateur rider told H&H that at one stage she was waiting for more than £600 in entry fees for lost events for her two horses.

    “Doing their best”

    William Buck, co-organiser of Frickley Park International (17–20 August) and a British Eventing Owners Association (BEOA) committee member, told H&H events are “doing their very best” and the decision to abandon is a last resort. He added that there has been much misunderstanding around abandonment insurance and refunds.

    “The BEOA has been in dialogue with BE to try to address this, and identify concerns organisers have, not just this year but for next. There has been a split between organisers; some can get insurance and some can’t – and that can drive entries. The ones with insurance will essentially attract full entries; the ones who don’t, won’t, and there’s a risk those events will disappear,” he said.

    “Also when you have significant amounts of cancellations and they claim on insurance, there’s a real risk those events will not be able to get cover going forward, or the cover they get will be at such a cost that they can’t afford to run. The danger is that the whole calendar will collapse.”

    Sarah Skillin of EquiConsulting, who works with insurers Shearwater, told H&H it is important to stress that many policies used are not eventing-specific.

    “When events are experiencing claims delays, it’s likely because the insurers don’t just insure eventing, they insure non-equestrian events, which are also being cancelled, so things are taking longer than normal due to the volume of claims,” said Miss Skillin, who is also part of the Little Downham organising team, which had to submit an abandonment claim last year.

    “Despite us taking a risk and giving competitors a 100% refund in 48 hours, Little Downham’s claim took five weeks; you have to prepare documentation, loss adjusters have to review it and come back with an offer, then there’s more paperwork. They send you the money, which can take a further five days, then you have to process refunds via BE, if you haven’t already done so.”

    But Miss Skillin, who is also an owner and represents riders, added that she believes communication between events and competitors needs improvement.

    “Events have to be clear what they are offering; whether it’s the basic BE refund policy or if they are intending to refund 100%, 80%, or 70%,” she said.

    “As soon as any abandonment happens they need to communicate quickly and clearly what their intention is, even if that is by stating, ‘Subject to our claim being accepted, we’re planning to refund X%’. People will understand.”

    Lost opportunity for riders

    The other major concern around event cancellations is riders losing opportunities to gain minimum eligibility requirements. A BE spokesman said the organisation was “saddened” to hear about Somerford, and that on top of the Chatsworth and Rockingham abandonments, this will be a “real concern for members”, particularly those wishing to compete in FEI classes.

    “We appreciate that for many, these will have been key opportunities to gain MERs or educational runs and therefore BE is looking at alternative opportunities to add additional international and national classes into the calendar. Any international additions would be subject to FEI approval,” the spokesman said.

    Bicton International had announced plans to run an additional class, a CCI2*-S, at its May event (25–28 May), but said “approval had been suddenly revoked by the FEI”.

    An FEI spokesman said the federation “fully appreciates” the frustration of riders following the cancellations owing to the weather, and while the federation understands this has reduced opportunities, the FEI “cannot override rules that have been put in place to ensure the integrity of the sport and decision-making process”.

    The spokesman added that British Equestrian and the Bicton organising team requested the FEI grant an exception to the rules, but said the rules are approved by the FEI general assembly, and there is “no provision to override this”. The spokesman said initially the FEI responded to the Bicton request with “it should be possible”, but within a few hours confirmed it would not be, along with a full explanation.

    “This clearly demonstrates there was no lack of willingness on the FEI’s part, but that the rules would not allow for it and the FEI had no other option,” he said.

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