Event Rider Masters’ creator Chris Stone has aspirations to run the eventing series at five-star short level in the future. H&H finds out why and garners opinion from riders on the plans...
QUESTIONS have been raised over the future of the Event Rider Masters (ERM) series.
Creator Chris Stone has asked the FEI to approve the ERM’s running at five-star short level, with five-star dressage and showjumping, while the cross-country phase would remain at four-star level.
He told H&H this would help attract top brands as sponsors to the series, the aim of which has been to grow and promote eventing, and find new revenue, but opinion among riders on whether it’s the right next step for the series is split.
“We’ve been hugely successful in building a global audience,” said Mr Stone, citing the “phenomenal” numbers who watch the series.
“We’ve shown we know how to present eventing and capture the audience, and our engagement on social media is at a level eight times normal sport presentations.”
Mr Stone added that to his sponsors, the type of audience is key; for ERM, it is mainly women, so brands have access to more and different people to most sports.
“But global brands want to be involved in the very top of sport,” he said. “It’s important to them.”
Mr Stone said without this top level, about which he is in talks with the FEI, brands tell him it is “difficult to support us”.
“It’s a barrier to bringing on board the commercial partners we need to make the series successful long term,” he said.
An FEI spokesman said: “The FEI is working in close collaboration with all those involved, to consider the possibility of developing a new competition category within the framework of FEI procedures.”
Rider and FEI eventing committee member William Fox-Pitt is not sure the ERM would work at five-star short level.
“Chris is proposing five-star dressage and showjumping but four-star cross-country, and we don’t think that’s right for the sport. We want the cross-country to be the focus,” he told H&H.
William said he understands Mr Stone wants a “pinnacle” event, and one possibility is a five-star ERM series finale, but he does not feel the plan is right.
“I think the ERM is one of the most exciting things that has happened in our sport, but it doesn’t need to change,” he said.
“We’re lucky to have it and I really hope it can come back; but I think four-star does the trick.”
Fellow top rider Alex Bragg told H&H he believes ERM securing top sponsors is vital, to the series and eventing.
“The series has only benefited our sport,” he said. “In the exposure, the way it creates horse and rider profiles to follow, even non-horsey people; it’s all of huge benefit.”
Alex added that the exposure is beneficial to riders’ sponsors, and the prize money very important to professionals making a living. And he believes the chance to compete more at five-star dressage and jumping would boost standards.
“Especially before a championship; you can compete at that level with less mileage on horses’ legs than on a long-format cross-country,” he said. “I can only see a benefit.”
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