British feed supplement manufacturer Hilton Herbs has been banned from the 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Kentucky by title sponsor Alltech, the US feed giant.
Alltech, which has an annual turnover of $400million, claims the Somerset firm, which has 17 employees, is competition.
The US biotechnology company told organisers that Hilton Herbs, a manufacturer of herbal supplements for horse feed based in North Perrott could not have a stand at WEG next year (25 September-10 October 2010).
Under its sponsorship contract, Alltech has the right to exclude competitor manufacturers from the event.
Co-owner of Hilton Herbs Tony Self is furious. He was informed by email in May, despite paying a $2,500 (£1,500) deposit to secure a tradestand back in 2007.
He said: “It’s a disgrace. Our products don’t compete with theirs — they don’t do herbal supplements. This is a WEG, everyone will be there. We thought it was a golden opportunity to push our products in America.”
But Terry Johnson, vice-president of sales for WEG, was unrepentant.
He said: “Alltech has paid $10million [£6m] to sponsor the games, it’s the largest single sponsorship in horse sport in the world and that level of investment warrants exclusive rights. Hilton Herbs, although a fine company, does conflict with those [rights].”
Mr Johnson has apologised to Hilton Herbs and returned Tony Self’s deposit with $45 (£27) interest. He said 15 companies had been excluded from WEG.
But Mr Self said his deposit should not have been taken in the first place, adding: “We’ve been working on arrangements for months.”
Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association, said: “I can understand Alltech’s position. This sort of sponsorship exclusivity is not unusual, it’s happened at other events.
“But it is disappointing Hilton Herbs weren’t told [they could not exhibit] in the first place.”
A spokesman for Alltech confirmed they had signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with WEG that meant other feed manufacturers could not attend.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (2 July, ’09)