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Coronavirus tests for top British showjumpers returning to UK *H&H Plus*


  • Elite British showjumpers returning from countries that were removed from the UK’s list of travel corridors while they were competing are being tested for Covid-19 before returning to competition.

    British youth teams were competing in the Nations Cup series in the Netherlands and there were a number of senior British riders competing in France last week.

    Competition was already underway when the announcement was made on Thursday night that people travelling to Britain from France, the Netherlands, and several other countries, after 4am on Saturday (15 August) would need to self-isolate for 14 days on return.

    There are exceptions for those in certain professions, listed on the UK government website, and those who fulfil elite athlete criteria (plus their essential support staff, such as grooms) can apply for an exemption.

    British Equestrian stated those on the World Class Performance Programme and those selected to represent Great Britain on a team or at a championship are eligible to apply for an exemption.

    Any rider who has earned their jacket pocket flag within the last four calendar years (all age categories) is also eligible to apply.

    Disciplines also have their own specific rules for those who may not come under the BEF’s umbrella guidance.

    For showjumpers, they must have jumped double clear at a four- or five-star Nations Cup or grand prix in the last two years.

    British Showjumping chief executive Iain Graham told H&H this exemption is only for those competing in a country that is removed from the list while the rider is there, so would not apply for anyone travelling to a nation not on the list of travel corridors now.

    “For people that have gone to a country which then becomes non-exempt while they are there, there is the option for us to grant them an exception to compete when they come back, provided they are an elite athlete and test negative for Covid-19,” said Mr Graham, adding this is also the case for essential members of their support team, such as grooms.

    This is in addition to — and stricter than — the over-arching BEF guidance, which “strongly recommends” any riders who do get an exemption have two negative Covid-19 tests, one before competing and again after seven days “out of consideration for our social responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus”.

    Organisers of the Al Shira’aa Bolesworth Young Horse Championships this week are taking strict precautions, in addition to their usual coronavirus safety requirements, for any person using the elite athlete exemption.

    “We are delighted to be running the Al Shira’aa Bolesworth Young Horse Championships this week, where we are adhering to both the Government and federation guidelines with the support of our local council,” said a statement from the organisers.

    “There are a small number of riders competing this week who have travelled from countries now subject to the new Government quarantine rules.

    “These riders all qualify for the Government-approved exemption to this rule for elite riders and their essential support team.

    “This small group were required to present this exemption letter to the track and trace team on arrival at the event in order to gain access, and also were required to present a negative test result for Covid-19 taken within the last 48 hours, which we are also in receipt of.

    “We are therefore very confident that all reasonable risk has been mitigated with respect to everyone on site, all guidelines have been adhered to, and we are delighted to be able to be playing our part in the return to safe sport.”

    Confusion

    The speed of the change in France’s status, confusing nature of the government guidance and decisions from other sports sparked a multitude of questions as to how and why certain riders could be exempt.

    This was compounded by the British Horseracing Authority’s announcement that jockeys, trainers and stable staff in France when the announcement was made must test negative for Covid twice within a set time-frame before going anywhere on their return. This effectively meant Frankie Dettori could ride at last weekend’s meeting in Deauville, or at this week’s major fixture at York, but not both.

    People questioned why certain riders in Olympic equestrian disciplines were “more elite” than one of the world’s leading jockeys. News stories surrounding quarantine of other top sport teams and individuals in cricket and football, as well as how Formula One had sought specific “quarantine exemptions” for those travelling to the British Grand Prix, added to the confusion.

    Mr Graham explained this is owing to the fact that on its post-lockdown return, equestrian sport chose not to run under the government’s “elite sport framework”, but is instead working under the Government’s public meeting gathering rules. There are additional protocols for international events.

    He added while equestrian sport had the option to run under the elite framework, it would mean the return would have been very different, involving bubbles, set locations and strict rules about who could return to competition as it would have been geared up for the top end.

    While there are elite athletes within the sport who are eligible to apply for the exemption, this is why equestrianism a whole does not follow the exact rules of other sports.

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