UK firms fight for missing WEG fees

  • British cross-country course-builders, the Willis brothers, are still awaiting a third of their fees from the 2002 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Jerez, Spain.

    Like a number of other businesses, they have been owed money since WEG’s organisers went bankrupt in 2002. The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has
    intervened on the brothers’ behalf after a series of empty promises from organisers.

    The city of Jerez initially funded WEG, but a change in mayor during the Games halted the cash flow. Three years and several mayors later, the latest mayor has publicly vowed to pay back the money the city owes by the end of the summer.

    “The council of Jerez has officially announced that it has assumed the debts,” said Alejandro Landluce, secretary general of the Spanish national federation, the Real Federacion Hipica Espanola (RFHE). “They owe money to us as well, which we have demanded, but who knows when they are going to pay? We are on a long list [of debtors] and have to wait our turn.”

    General manager of WEG 2002, Antonio Ortiz, told Horse & Hound: “I haven’t spoken to the mayor personally but I have read in the newspapers that he will pay all the city’s debts before the end of the summer.”

    But Alan Willis remains sceptical about the latest assurance from Jerez. “It’s another promise — [the previous] mayor has come to us before with promises. But the money hasn’t arrived, even though there’s no dispute over the amount they owe us. So I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.

    Equestrian photographer Kit Houghton is also owed a third of his fees, although the money owed to him — £1,000 — is considerably less than that owed to the Willis brothers.

    Both Houghton and the Willises have received numerous letters, first from the organising committee, then the mayor, and the latest — six months ago — from a liquidating company in charge of Jerez 2002’s debts.

    “I kept getting letters in Spanish that I didn’t understand,” said Houghton. “The first cheque they gave me bounced. We were going to write it off — it’s a reasonable amount of money but trying to sue someone in Spain would be a nightmare.”

    • Read this story in full in today’s issue of Horse & Hound (19 May, ’05)

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