Spotlight on eventing refunds as concerns raised over future entries *H&H Plus*

  • As competitors await news on whether they will receive refunds from fixtures cancelled at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, H&H seeks reaction from riders and asks British Eventing whether entries will be covered should a tightening of restrictions lead to future events being lost...

    British Eventing (BE) is working on a “worst case scenario” for future events as riders and owners are still waiting on news of refunds from lost fixtures.

    Many competitors are waiting for their entry fees to be returned for events cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic. For some, this figure is hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

    BE shared a summary of how events might work while maintaining social distancing on 18 May (news, 21 May). This included no extra public or spectators, online payments, print-at-home numbers, riders encouraged or mandated to do volunteering shifts, and strict penalties (disqualification and rejection of future entries) if social distancing measures are not adhered to.

    But riders and owners, including those waiting for refunds from cancelled fixtures, have queried what will happen to their entry fees should affiliated events run under this new model be forced to cancel if the government re-introduced restrictions.

    BE chief executive Jude Matthews told H&H this remains unclear.

    “Our underwriters have challenged the insurance claim for the seven events cancelled due to Covid-19 at the start of lockdown,” she said.

    “We have engaged specialist lawyers and are disputing this on behalf of our impacted members.

    “Until the matter is concluded, it remains unclear whether any future Covid-19 restriction-related cancellations would be covered by the policy.

    “The cover continues to provide benefits for the more normal cancellation scenarios we experience – largely weather related – for which members have received nearly the same back from the insurance as has been paid over the life of the policy.

    “We are working with organisers to consider the worst-case scenario position of Covid-19 cancellations not being covered so that we can ensure members know what the position is prior to them entering a competition.

    “We will continue to update members as more information is available as we know this is an important issue.”

    In the US, events have varying policies on whether they are offering full, partial or no refunds, with others opening entries but not taking payment unless the event runs.

    One rider told H&H he has around £2,000 outstanding in entries for multiple horses across more than one event.

    “I’ve taken the brunt of it,” he said. “I don’t want to present my owners with a huge bill when the horses haven’t done anything.

    “BE keeps putting out statements but they don’t really say anything. I’d be scared of putting any other entries in yet in case they were cancelled and I lost more money.”

    Another rider told H&H owners “need to be respected” and people are running through their savings with no acknowledgement of the money and support they have put in, while still awaiting refunds.

    They added while nobody could have predicted Covid-19, giving people more information to start with – such as a copy of the abandonment insurance policy at the start of each season so people can see and understand what cover they are paying for, along with an opt-out option – would be of benefit.

    “It is pretty disrespectful for owners – the sport cannot survive without them,” the rider said, adding the lack of information also underestimates people’s IQ and business sense.

    In a letter from the BE board of directors to the Eventing Riders’ Association, dated 18 May, the claim amount is set at £385,000.

    “For context, to date this policy has paid in excess of £6m since 2009 not much less than the premiums paid and has provided ample cover over the years,” states the letter. “We are in a legal claim process now, and having had the expected robust exchange of each parties’ positions, we are entering the next stage of discussing settlement.”

    The board adds this is “a very sensitive phase and we are committed to getting all the monies owed paid”.

    “It is because we are at this stage that our lawyers have advised that while members are entitled to see the policy, any comment or opinion shared on social media or in communication direct to the insurers may adversely impact the negotiation – you will understand this is not a legal point but a tactical one,” states the letter.

    “The other risk is if a member decides to embark on an individual or group claim that will negate the all-member claim we are pursuing, and we would have to start again.”

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