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Coronavirus: eventing start delayed and championships off

The British Eventing (BE) season will not begin before 26 March, it has been confirmed – and two British Riding Club (BRC) championships have been cancelled.

The BE season had been due to start at the beginning of March with three fixtures; Epworth, South Yorkshire, Poplar Park, Suffolk, and Aston-le-Walls, Northants, scheduled to run on 6-7 March. Following the announcement of the latest lockdown BE had hoped for the season to begin in mid-March.

In a statement today (14 January) BE said it continued to work closely with event organisers to ensure BE is ready to start sport as soon as restrictions allow.

“In consultation with our organisers due to host events in early March, we have made the decision that competitive sport will not resume before 26 March,” read the statement.

“Subject to Government guidance we will continue to look at alternatives permitted under a tier system and will resume a full competitive sport as soon as regulation permits us to do so.”

The announcement means that Tweseldown, Hampshire, and Oasby, Lincolnshire, (11-14 March), Lincolnshire, (19-21 March), and Moreton, Dorset (20-21 March) are off. On 1 January organisers of Swalcliffe Park announced the cancellation of its 20-21 March event, and on 8 January organisers of Millfield, Somerset, cancelled their 15-16 May fixture, both stating this was owing to the ongoing uncertainty around Covid.

“We understand our members cannot wait to get out eventing, and we are confident that with our protocols in place we will be able to resume sport quickly once Government guidance allows us to,” said BE chief executive Jude Matthews.

“When sport resumed in July 2020, we demonstrated that with the support of our hard-working organisers and our army of able volunteers, high-quality events could be prepared quickly. We were able to shorten the timescale for taking entries for events, and react to demand by adding extra days of competition where required. Work will continue to ensure we offer members the full calendar of competition they require as we restart, and throughout the season.”

Ms Matthews added that BE is in continual conversation with early season event organisers and is discussing potential alternative formats such as training competitions to ease members’ transition into the full season, subject to restrictions in place.

“In addition, we are reviewing the qualification criteria and timescales for our championships to help ensure members are able to gain their qualifications,” she said.

Rachael Faulkner, chair of the British Event Organisers Association, said the organisation “fully supports” the decision not to start the season until the latter part of March.

“With current restrictions in place, and deadlines to book contractors, pay deposits and secure volunteers fast approaching, we agree that pushing back the start of the season is a sensible choice. We all look forward to welcoming the eventing community to our events as soon as possible,“ she said.

“As we move closer to a season restart, we continue to work with our organisers to ensure there are sufficient events for members and this may include rescheduling some of the lost early season events later in the season. We will keep members up to date with any changes to the 2021 fixtures calendar.”

In a statement today BRC said that following an advisory committee meeting yesterday (13 January) it was with “great disappointment” that further cancellations had to be made to BRC’s calendar.

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The BRC arena eventing championships (13-14 March) have been postponed to 22-23 May and will now take place at Aston le Walls. The novice winter championships, incorporating the rescheduled 2020 and 2021 novice and intermediate championships (26-29 March) have been cancelled. The intermediate winter championships (23-25 April) and the combined training championships (22-23 May) are also off. All dressage classes from the novice and intermediate winter championships will run as an online competition with further details to follow.

The horse trials championships (6-8 August) will go ahead, but will run as a short-format competition with no roads and tracks or steeplechase. All classes will run as one-day events.

A BRC spokesman said the organisation is “monitoring the situation closely” with regard to the national championships (4-5 September) and dressage to music championships incorporating quadrille (date and venue still to be confirmed), and an update will be issued in spring.

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