Federation acts on new safety measures despite being placed in administration *H&H Plus*

  • Despite governance issues resulting in Equestrian Australia being placed in voluntary adminstration, the national federation has been making progress implementing recommendations made by the coroner after the death of two riders in cross-country accidents. H&H finds out more...

    Safety remains Equestrian Australia’s (EA) top priority, despite uncertainty because the federation is in administration, as it pushes forward to implement a coroner’s recommendations after the deaths of two event riders.

    On 9 June, EA announced it had gone into voluntary administration, stating, “clearly, the current model does not work”. This followed multiple changes in management including the fourth chair resigning in 16 months.

    A letter of 3 June from the Australian Sports Committee (ASC) stated it had invested in the improvement of safety standards but EA had not been “forthcoming with reporting transparently” on the progress of this, as required under its sport investment agreement. Owing to “board turmoil” at EA, the ASC withdrew funding of $450,000 (£248,000) for 2020.

    Following the inquests into the deaths of Caitlyn Fischer and Olivia Inglis in cross-country falls at Australian events in 2016, a 31-part recommendation report was released by deputy state coroner Derek Lee for safety improvements to be made by EA (news, 10 October 2019). This included implementing a rider representative system, a full-time national safety manager and a safety sub-committee and medical working group. It also added requirements to medical coverage rules.

    EA reported on 24 June it had completed 25 of the 31 safety recommendations between January and June. These have been implemented in the key areas: safety officers, event organisation, serious incident management and review processes, athlete representatives and personal protection equipment.

    EA national safety manager Meredith Chapman said “safety has been and remains our number one priority”, adding that safety is one reason change in the structure, operations and governance of EA is imminent.

    “I have been very fortunate in the past six months to have met, worked and talked with many devoted and passionate people within this sport,” she said, in a letter to members.

    “This experience to date has been inspiring and I believe my passion for safety is shared by many. Pro-active change is needed now to effectively meet the needs of our members, coaches, officials, funding bodies and everyone who embraces our sport.”

    Six of the recommendations on course design, data collection, medical coverage and fence judging are “close to implementation”, while two require further work on logistics and process.

    “The EA national safety manager has begun a review of the effectiveness of the implemented measures to identify possible areas for improvement. This review will also finalise the implementation of the six outstanding recommendations,” an EA spokesman told H&H.

    “This review has been delayed by Covid-19 and the suspension of equestrian sport in Australia. However, it is anticipated that once the voluntary administration process has been completed and sport resumes in all states of Australia, a final report will be completed in 2020.”

    The spokesman added the health and safety of members is “paramount” and EA is committed to making the sport as safe as possible.

    The adminstration process

    On 19 June, EA administrators held the first meeting of creditors. In a report following this, a second meeting was scheduled for 14 July, during which creditors may vote for EA to be wound up, which would result in the loss of recognition of EA with the FEI and the Australian Olympic Committee and the full withdrawal of funding by the ASC for equestrianism – but the administrators stated they do not consider liquidation to be in the best interests of creditors and members of EA.

    Other options to the creditors are for EA to execute a deed of company arrangement, which includes working with bodies such as the FEI and ASC to improve governance and operating structure. The other option is for the administration to end.

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