Working to ensure equestrian sport is one of the first to return *H&H Plus*

  • As some countries start to relax their lockdown restrictions, H&H reports on the plans national federations are putting in place to enable equestrian sporting activities to resume...

    National federations have been working with governments to ensure equestrianism can be among the first sports to get going once lockdown is eased.

    Events at all levels and in all sports have been cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic, but British Equestrian (BEF) and Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) are among the bodies that have been working with decision-makers on how events could be run when safe.

    A BEF spokesman told H&H this is a complicated process as a number of stakeholders are involved.

    “We’re working on it,” she said. “We’ve been having constant dialogue with government via UK Sport and the Sport and Recreation Alliance throughout, so the process towards resumption has never really stopped.”

    The spokesman added that different BEF member bodies have been working on individual plans for resumption, and that the federation will use these for its overall umbrella plan.

    “All activities and sports are slightly different so we need their input – it’s not something we want to ‘dictate’ on but advise where it adds value for each to come up with workable and manageable plans and then we can be the glue to pull it together for the benefit of the industry,” she said.

    HSI has delivered a “comprehensive submission” to government, aimed at “ensuring considered protocols and procedures can be put in place to allow an incremental resumption of equestrian activity, when current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and it is deemed safe”.

    HSI added that it has been “engaging with government and has advocated the uniqueness of equestrianism in the context of safe sport return”.

    The document explains that as an outside, non-contact sport using privately owned venues and organisers used to carrying out risk assessments, it carries lower risk of virus spread than some.

    It suggests comprehensive mitigation measures, such as temperature checks on arrival, closed-door show policies and hygiene stations, and sets out the impact the virus has had.

    “The impact on our affiliate bodies, riding schools, pony clubs, show venues, has been immense with loss of show levies and income,” the document states.

    “The cancellation of domestic events will also have an enormous effect on the progression of up-and-coming athletes, and the lack of opportunities to compete… is cause for concern.

    “There is also significant risk that many of our affiliates and national equestrian establishments will be insolvent by the next quarter of this year due to loss of revenue from membership and entry fees, while costs associated with staff, rent, insurances and so on remain.”

    It sets out equestrianism’s €816m (£717m) contribution to the economy, and raises concerns of possible negative effects of lack of work on some horses.

    HSI chairman Joe Reynolds said: “HSI [has] responsibility for both the breeding and sport sectors of our industry and this gives us a unique perspective to present proposals for resumption of activities. It is important the sport horse community unites behind these proposals and speaks together with one voice on this.”

    A spokesman for the UK government department of culture, media and sport told H&H the department held, last week, an “initial, constructive meeting with medical representatives from a number of professional and elite sports bodies, government and Public Health England to step up planning on what may need to be done so athletes could return to training, when it is deemed safe”.

    She added: “This would be ahead of any return to competitive top-level sport which would only happen when medical experts advise that this can be done safely. Discussions with the sports bodies will continue on this.”

    US Equestrian hosted a webinar on Monday 4 May to outline the federation’s plans for a possible phased return to sport from 1 June.

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