After a tough few seasons, a third of hunts have said they have “considered not running” a point-to-point, as it is just too big a financial risk.
Along with the annual ball, point-to-pointing used to be a hunt’s big fundraiser. But with the average cost of a meeting now £20,000 and only 30% of hunts making a profit of more than £5,000, they seem increasingly unviable.
The revelations emerged from a survey sent out last September by the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) and the Point-to-Point Authority (PPA).
Of the 149 hunts that responded, 53 said a loss of revenue and lack of manpower, as well as increasing vet and doctor costs, meant they had questioned whether to host a meeting.
Charlie Moore of the Meynell and South Staffordshire said their committee had seriously considered packing in pointing.
“It is a very high financial risk for relatively low returns and we have a responsibility to our hunt; it can’t afford to pick up the tab,” he told H&H. “But we’ve looked at it ‘glass half full’ and will run until 2015, when we will review it again.”
The South Devon told H&H they have decided to call time on pointing after both their fixtures were cancelled this year.
“We’ve had the misfortune of bad weather, but with endlessly increasing costs, it was a complete no-brainer to stop. It’s incredibly disappointing,” said chairman Valerie Kemp.
Entries down, gates down
“People are much more mindful of their ‘leisure money’ today,” added Mrs Kemp. “Entries are down and gates are down.”
Tina Hayward of the North Norfolk agreed.
“How long we can all continue to hold point-to-points remains to be seen,” she said. “It is an awful lot of work for very little return nowadays. There are so many things people can do with their weekends.”
Many hunts told H&H that expectations, especially regarding the going, are growing.
“Pointing is now a semi-professional sport,” said Steven Astaire, a director of the PPA. “Twenty years ago you turned up and ran, now they analyse the ground. It’s good that standards are rising, but you have to be realistic.”
A ‘hardy sport’
But Lucy Tucker of the PPA said the results of the survey were as expected and that the “star” fixtures were thriving.
“The number of hunts that said they will no longer stage fixtures is very small,” she said. “But we understand it is hard work to run a point-to-point.”
She added that pointing is a “hardy sport”.
“The weather is a major player. But pointing picks itself up and kicks on,” she added.
There were 199 fixtures in the calendar this season — down from 206 last year — plus a 6.8% drop in horse registrations and a 10.8% drop in riders applying for licences.
H&H columnist Darren Edwards said the appetite for the sport is strong, but with entries down there should be a further reduction in fixtures. “No one wants to watch a walkover,” he pointed out.
What is being done?
Both the MFHA and PPA want to encourage hunts to hold meetings earlier in the season.
“Star fixtures” — such as those run over Easter and bank holidays — cost more to run compared with “unfashionable” winter dates. The PPA recently introduced a cash incentive to encourage hunts to stage fixtures before February and this will continue to run next season.
Stephen Lambert from the MFHA said a new guide for hunts — with advice on everything from medical cover to how to get the most out of sponsorship — will be sent out and seminars for new point-to-point secretaries will be held in September.
“The industry is in good heart, but we need to help hunts run successful meetings and make better use of the great knowledge we have,” he said.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 June 2013)