The future of team chasing is reliant on attracting a new sponsor. At the sport’s AGM at Cheltenham Racecourse, riders and organisers voted to continue a controversial levy on riders and events to raise money for a major marketing campaign.
“We have to look at this as possibly the only way of taking the sport forward,” warned Joe Cowen, MFHA team chasing standing committee chairman.
The bid to market team chasing and its open championships began last year, after long-time sponsor George Goring ended the Goring Hotel’s association with the nationwide qualifiers and national championships.
Mr Cowen said that around £50,000 a year was required, but added: “We won’t know for some months whether there’s a reasonable chance of getting a national sponsor, but this has to be handled in the best way possible to give us a chance of success.”
Finding sponsorship for equestrian sport is not easy, Andrea Worrall from consultancy GPC told H&H. GPC was responsible for introducing Waitrose to eventing, and has worked with Blenheim Horse Trials at attracting sponsors.
“Rugby, cricket, golf and football all do well,” said Ms Worrall, “but any other sports find it difficult. There can be a bit of luck involved, it’s not an exact science, but you have to look at your sport in terms of what will attract sponsors.”
Rosie Vestey, chairman of the marketing group, said more cash was needed to prepare a professional pitch to potential sponsors. The levy has so far raised £8,000, with spring events contributing around £500 each, made up of donations from the event itself and riders.
The Berks and Bucks event has opted out of affiliation, partly due to the burden on novice and intermediate riders.
One event organiser emphasised that team chasing was run by hunts for hunt funds. But when the levy was finally put to a vote, Old Berks organiser Kirstin Lloyd was the sole voice against.
She said: “I have sympathy, but we don’t run an open class and I can’t see the benefit for intermediate and novice teams.”
VWH event organiser Chris Verey stressed that top-level open competition must be encouraged.
“The easiest way to run a team chase is to have intermediate and novice classes,” he said. “People come and the money pours in, but all you have is a glorified hunter trial. To get the headlines and sponsors, you have to encourage hunts to run open events.”
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