A complaint was raised about a team name used at a team chase this month. H&H speaks to organisers, the man who raised the issue and the man who submitted the name
TEAM chasing officials have apologised for any offence caused by a team name that generated a complaint.
A team by the name “Bolox. All Lives Matter” took part in the Grafton chase on 18 October. Grafton chairman Colin Richmond-Watson said under normal circumstances, it would have been spotted before the event.
“This year is very unusual,” he told H&H. “Normally we have a programme and it’s proof-read, but this year it was all done online and we didn’t get the print-out until shortly before the event.
“We have a very small team of volunteers, and 125 entries, very nearly 500 horses, so we were flat out and we didn’t spot it.”
Mr Richmond-Watson said he was disappointed the complaint was not raised on the day, as an apology could have been issued straight away.
“It slipped through the net while we were under pressure, for which we’re very sorry, but it was certainly never our intent to cause offence,” he said. “All we can do is apologise, and make sure it never happens again, which it won’t; we will check all team names.”
British Team Chasing chairman Philip Cowen echoed Mr Richmond-Watson’s apology, and both pointed out that team chasing is a very inclusive sport; all riders from all backgrounds are welcome to, and do, participate.
Mr Cowen told H&H the name was entirely inappropriate.
“We’ve gone out of our way to ensure the sport is accessible to as many people as possible; it’s very open and inclusive,” he said. “We make absolutely sure the opportunity is there for all to take part, and its popularity is booming.
“This was a big event run by a small team and this slipped through unnoticed until it was too late.”
British Racing School finance director Andrew Braithwaite, who was grooming at the event, raised the complaint.
He said: “I feel that the organisers’ allowing a team to compete under the name and the commentator stating the name numerous times was a grave error. I very much hope the team and the organisers had not thought through the significance of using a slogan that is now commonly taken to be a criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He added: “It is of great importance to the future of all equestrian sport that we collectively champion diversity and stage events that are welcoming to all – we should certainly not provide a platform for political statements that are at best divisive.”
The phrase “all lives matter” is controversial as it is seen as downplaying racism and diminishing the voice of BAME people; as Black equestrian and businesswoman Sandra Murphy told H&H: “All lives matter when Black lives matter.”
Mark Smith, who named the team, had previously named one Bollocks to Blair when former prime minister Tony Blair wanted to ban hunting.
He named his four riders and horses so the entry read: “George Floyd’s, Life Matters, Julia Schiffol’s, Life Matters, Captain Tom’s Life Matters. Even Luke Harvey’s Life Matters.”
He told H&H he was making the point that the lives of Black American George Floyd, poisoned Russian Yulia Skripal, veteran Captain Tom and racing presenter Luke all matter.
“I can’t understand how anyone could be offended by saying all lives matter,” he said. “By saying ‘bolox’ in front, it’s taken away any connection to Black Lives Matter [BLM]. Just by understanding English, it’s clear it wasn’t anti-BLM.”
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