New festivals and series on the cards for grassroots eventers *H&H Plus*

  • British Eventing revealed details of a new novice series and area festivals for grassroots members at its 2020 AGM, as well as sharing news on its finances and the long-running IT project. H&H finds out more...

    NEW feature classes aimed at grassroots eventers are on the cards for 2021.

    Area festivals at 80, 90 and 100 levels, and a new novice masters series, are in the pipeline for next year.

    The news came during British Eventing’s (BE) annual general meeting, held via Zoom on Tuesday (24 November).

    The masters series is aimed at those who are competitive at that level and fit in the gap of being ineligible for the novice restricted championships, but for whom the national championships is another big step. It will run at intermediate-novice level and will be piloted at five events in 2021, with plans for expansion in the future.

    The area festivals are planned to be a target in their own right, as well as part of the route to the grassroots championships, replacing the current regional finals system. There will be four area festivals in 2021, which will include open sections, and more details are expected shortly.

    The BE90 three-day event (with speed and endurance), which BE announced it was planning in April, will be hosted by Bicton in October 2021.

    “We hope these will provide members with exciting new competition goals and keep you out competing for seasons to come,” said BE chief executive Jude Matthews.

    Balloting was particularly high in 2020 and BE has pledged to continue to look at supply and demands for fixtures at all levels.

    This was the second season that continuing performance requirements have been in place, which force competitors who repeatedly run into problems across country to drop down a level or undergo training. The rule was triggered 189 times in 2019 and 79 in 2020, with the most cases this year at BE80(T) and novice. All those who triggered the rule in 2020 competed again, with 70% requalifying to their original level.

    In other news, a volunteer working group is set to be formed in 2021 and BE is also actively looking at the unaffiliated market to see what it is offering and how it can make those prices work.

    Abandonment insurance is also remaining in its current guise for 2021, with plans to review it beyond that, and BE is offering an option reduced membership fee next year to make up for the 2020 halt.

    Money and tech

    RUMOURS have been circulating over the state of BE’s finances and whether the organisation is heading towards insolvency.

    BE board chairman Fiona O’Hara assured members this was not the case.

    “BE is not insolvent and nor is there any evidence to support any claims that it may be in the coming months,” she said. “Yes, we have had a tough year. Yes we’ve had our revenue drop around £1m, resulting largely from Covid. And yes we have used reserves to complete our IT project and yes we have some ongoing issues with that.”

    BE is forecasting a dip from £780,000 to £561,000 and £1.8 million to £1.161 million in its respective cash and capital reserves this year. The focus in 2021 is on rebuilding cash reserves, with capital reserves to be rebuilt from 2022.

    Mrs O’Hara added that the current picture for cash and capital reserves is better than they forecast when sport was halted by the pandemic.

    “We will continue to manage the finances astutely and balance the quality and safety of the sport we are so proud of with the need to balance the books,” she said.

    The meeting was taken through the measures BE has taken to minimise spending and make savings where possible, given the reduction in income from the cancellation of sport from both poor weather and Covid, plus the fact membership is down 19% on 2019. These included claiming £144,000 from the furlough scheme, a reduction in office headcount by 15 (redundancies and not replacing staff who left), plus £100,000 in other savings; the total savings are around the £1m mark.

    The meeting heard BE is getting a handle on issues with the IT project and proactively working to find solutions. The IT task force’s recommendations (news, 19 November) were unanimously supported by the board and more progress is expected over coming months.

    While the message was that it is “really time to draw a line under the past”, the fact remains that IT transformation projects – under several guises – have been running since 2012 and have cost millions. Some of those costs have been recuperated from companies involved, but BE cannot divulge details of how much. Eight years on and BE has a system that is not fully functional, although some parts are working well.

    To mitigate this, it is now outsourcing to Eventingscores for sectioning, times and scoring with plans for them to take over some other aspects in future, and has not ruled out outsourcing to further third-party organisations.

    There is also the matter of ongoing cost. The IT task force put the figure to get the BE IT system working fully at around £600,000 in 2021, but the budget for all IT spending is around £383,000.

    “We will act on the recommendations of the IT task force and we will move forward with an IT system and strategy that meets the needs of our users, and meets our wallet,” said Mrs O’Hara.

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