Money, IT and communication: passionate debate at British Eventing EGM

Firey debate over spending, IT and communication came to the fore at British Eventing’s (BE) EGM on Monday (22 October).

The meeting was called as a result of 107 members’ signing a motion of no confidence in chief executive David Holmes and chairman Paul Hodgson.

Of the 107 signatories, four attended the meeting, held at Stoneleigh, along with around 200 other BE members and stakeholders.

The pricey and delayed IT project, budgeted at just under £2 million, expenses of about £11,000 related to Osborne House Horse Trials, which comprised of the chairman and chief executive’s visit plus subsidy paid to some other events, and the need for better communication from the board to members and organisers were the main talking points.

Event organiser Janet Plant called on BE to ensure it is spending members’ money wisely, and to show greater transparency and better communication.

While opinions varied, there was an undisputable passion from all sides that they were there and raising their voices for the good of the “amazing sport”.

BE director Guy Prest chaired the meeting, with the majority of the responses coming from him or Mr Hodgson.

Mike Etherington-Smith asked the signatories to sum up exactly what they were calling for, to which Mrs Plant responded they wanted the board to listen to members and address the issues affecting them.

Mr Hodgson admitted BE has gone through “dark spots” on the IT project — paid for out of the organisation’s reserves — but it is now “back on track” and is set to launch the final phase, the side of the site used by members, on 10 December.

He added that the platform will serve the organisation for the next 20 years.

Other topics raised included a call for volunteers to be represented at board level and BE’s sponsorship and commercial strategy.

Company secretary Wendy McGowan told the meeting the cost of the EGM was around £5,500.

BE referred a number of discussions for further debate at the AGM (4 November) and encouraged all members to vote, attend and submit questions either in advance or on the day.

Previous AGMs have been poorly attended and members vented their frustration at this and at the scheduling of one past meeting, which overran and had to be brought to a close due to a scheduling clash with a quiz, cutting short question time.

BE assured members it had learnt from the past, that this would not happen again and that members would have time to ask questions and discuss issues.

“This is the kind of situation we need at the AGM,” said Mr Prest, referring to the numbers and passionate discussion at Monday’s EGM.

“It needs both parties to participate; it is very important going forwards that we try and get this level of engagement at the AGM.”

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The results of the votes were close — 102 members voted in favour of the no confidence motion against Mr Hodgson, versus 161 against, while 148 voted in favour of the no confidence motion against Mr Holmes, compared to 155 against.

BE’s AGM will take place at 12.30pm on 4 November at Abbey Park, Stareton, Kenilworth.

For more from the EGM, don’t miss this Thursday’s issue of Horse & Hound — on sale from 25 October.

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday