As the future of hunting remains uncertain, the point-to-point world has suffered a major blow with the loss of its long-term sponsor Land Rover last week.
The car manufacturer is actively involved in many sports — from rugby to eventing — but its association with point-to-pointing went deeper than most. Over the years, the company has spent millions supporting pointing fixtures across the country and would have celebrated its 20th anniversary as one of the sport’s leading sponsors next year.
The timing of Land Rover’s announcement inevitably led to speculation that it may be linked to the ban on hunting, which was forced through with Parliament Act on Wednesday. However, company spokeswoman Laura Meyerding firmly rebuts the rumours: “It has absolutely not to do with hunting. We’ve had a review of our current commitments due to budgetary constraints for sponsorships next year,” she says.
Former chairman of the Point-to-Point Secretaries’ Association, Libby Gilman agrees. “We have been fighting this ban for 10 years and [Land Rover] always stood by us. They have given us tremendous sponsorship and clearly the management at the top feels they need to move on to something else.”
The company will continue to sponsor eventing and Meyerding hints at “quite a large sponsorship in the field of equestrianism” that they will commit to early next year.
“It’s a shame. We really enjoyed sponsoring the point-to-point series but it’s really to do with other equestrian sponsorships that we are unable to support point-to-point next year,” she says. Rumour in the industry has it that Land Rover will sponsor Burghley in 2005.
Land Rover dealers will continue to support local point-to-point fixtures “at their own discretion,” according to Meyerding. “We advise all dealers of the benefits [of backing point-to-points]. We absolutely encourage [them] to continue sponsoring their local events.”
The news hit the point-to-point world at a difficult time but organisers remain positive in the face of this new challenge and have only words of praise for Land Rover.
“Land Rover has been model sponsors, putting hundreds of thousands of pounds into the sport over the years,” says Nick Price from the Point to Point Owners’ & Riders’ Association. “We hope that it is a case of au revoir rather than goodbye.”
His words are echoed by PPSA chairman John Wilson. “Land Rover have been a wonderful sponsor and will be sorely missed.” he says. ‘It’s a shame that the men’s championship series doesn’t have a sponsor in the coming year. We felt we had to keep the sponsorship available to Land Rover in case they did change their mind. But we’ll no doubt find one for the following year – if it isn’t Land Rover again.”