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Questions for equestrian sport in Australia as federation goes into administration

The Australian equestrian federation has gone into administration, after the country’s government’s sport agency announced it was to withdraw funding.

The Equestrian Australia (EA) board announced today (9 June) that it had “taken the difficult decision” to place Equestrian Australia Ltd into voluntary administration.

Sports Australia had decided to withdraw funding to the federation until it could “demonstrate stability in governance and operation and that [it] is representative of [its] members”.

“Combined with the impact of Covid-19 on our forecast revenue, that has placed EA at risk of trading insolvently,” the board said in a statement.

“The operations of EA will continue without change at this stage and there is no planned loss of jobs. Our objective is to move forward to a more cohesive, and effective future.”

To protect the country’s equestrian Olympic programme, the high-performance scheme will be transferred to the Australian Institute of Sport. The high-performance panel will remain at EA, and the program will “continue unabated in pursuit of equestrian gold at the upcoming Olympics”.

H&H reported last week that EA board chairman Ricky MacMillan had resigned after six months and that a replacement for her, the third chair in 18 months, had not been announced.

We also reported in December 2018 that rumours EA was to be wound up and replaced with a new federation were “completely false and baseless”.

Australian national media reported at the time that the future of equestrian sport in the country was in “crisis” after John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic committee, emailed the FEI to issue “a stark warning to the [FEI] that the future of the sport hangs in the balance”.

It is understood Mr Coates raised concerns after five of six state branches emailed EA CEO Lucy Warhurst, requesting a general meeting to remove EA chairman Judy Fasher, and rumours of an alleged move to launch a rival federation.

But EA said in a statement dated 28 November 2018: “There is no plan to establish a new national federation by any individual or members of the EA board. EA is financially sound and continues to focus on building a sustainable sport across the country.”

Board spokesman John Glenn said today the situation was disappointing, but the current EA operating model clearly did not work.

“We have faced overwhelming challenges as an organisation over the past few years, but this EA board is unified and committed to a fresh start,” he said.

“This now is an opportunity for real change to rebuild the sport for current athletes and future generations.

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“In our sport of so many diverse interests, rarely do our branches, committees, and members share a cohesive view. Disagreement, however, should not be destructive.

“The goal is for EA to rebuild as a viable, representative, democratic and stable national sporting organisation – and return to a focus on sport as quickly as possible.”

Craig Shepard and Kate Conneely of KordaMentha have been appointed voluntary administrators.

The board has contacted the 18,000 grassroots members of Equestrian Australia to update them on developments, and to “seek their views about what a sustainable, safe and successful EA looks like going forward”.

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