Work ongoing to replace events lost to coronavirus pandemic *H&H Plus*

  • As international events continue to be lost to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, H&H finds out what plans and efforts are being made to organise replacement competition

    WORK is under way behind the scenes to replace lost fixtures after five international horse trials were cancelled in the space of two weeks.

    British Eventing (BE) and organisers are moving rapidly to fill the gaps, while work is ongoing to ensure eventers at all levels are catered for in the 2021 calendar.

    Badminton’s cancellation (5–9 May) was followed swiftly by the loss of Bramham (10–13 June), Chatsworth (15–16 May), Rockingham (21–23 May) and Withington Manor (1–2 May).

    While there can be no Badminton alternative, hope is on the horizon as the sport pulls together to find replacements for others lost.

    Cirencester Park, in Gloucestershire, has stepped in to run the cancelled Withington fixture on the same dates, complete with a new advanced track.

    “Bruno and Fiona Brenninkmeijer-McKenzie run an excellent event at Withington and we know it is for one year only,” Cirencester organiser and course-designer Alec Lochore told H&H.

    “Cirenceseter is a lovely venue and has a lot of scope. We’d lost our [March] fixture already and it seemed a logical option and opportunity.”

    The advanced course will feature a few specifically built fences, plus portables, mainly from nearby Barbury and some from Burnham Market, which Alec also organises.

    Burnham Market (16–18 April) is the first international currently in the calendar, with classes up to CCI4*-S.

    “We are actually planning, in a way, a relatively normal event,” said Alec, adding that this will be in line with Covid restrictions, and early plans include a few trade stands.

    But there are still challenges.

    “Burnham starts only four days after the earliest stage two of the Government’s phased lifting of lockdown can happen,” he said, adding that any delay would change certain elements of how they are planning to run and that they are ready to adapt. “That could change things quite considerably at quite short notice, but we will have to react.”

    Alec also praised BE and organisers for the ongoing work to get the season going and provide what the membership wants.

    “It is a very dynamic situation. When a four-star or advanced cancels, it isn’t just as easy as it may appear to say ‘this class will move to this event, and that class will go there’. There are so many factors to consider,” he said.

    “Certainly in this country, we have a number of people that can deliver events at relatively short notice and adapt and change, which is not as simple as it seems.

    “They are working in a very fluid situation and I think they are responding well.”

    The FEI relaxed its calendar rules slightly in April 2020, which will continue to apply “until the situation is deemed to have returned to normal”.

    This means applications for CCI4*-S and below must be with the FEI secretary general at least four weeks before an event, and six weeks for CCI4/5*-L events.

    It also means there are no “date clash” rules for CCI4*-S and below – and for CCI4*-L and above, clashes will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

    British Event Organisers Association (BEOA) chairman and Tweseldown organiser Rachael Faulkner had “high praise” for BE.

    “They have reacted incredibly swiftly,” she told H&H, explaining that requests for expressions of interest were sent out as soon as official cancellation notices came in, and with a “very short window” for fixtures to put their hats in the ring.

    A panel then looks at the fixtures that have officially tendered for an event, to see which best fits the requirements, with a strong emphasis on serving the membership. This means the whole process can take a matter of days, as opposed to weeks.

    She said the sport is also taking into account matters such as the additional difficulties with travelling abroad, high amount of balloting last season and the fact demand may increase later in the spring, once riders have been able to go training and cross-country schooling.

    Mrs Faulkner added that there have been occasions in the past where a divide has been felt between BE and organisers, but times have changed for the better.

    “It all comes down to good communication,” she said. “We are all in this together, so we have to work together as we are all on the same side.

    “The organisers (BEOA), riders and owners – all three stakeholders – are all working together. The main priority for BE and all of us is to make sure the membership gets what they need.”

    In other news, Aston-le-Walls (27–28 April) has taken on the BE90 to open novice classes from cancelled Whitfield, while riders qualified for the cancelled grassroots championships at Badminton have been asked whether they would prefer a relocated championship, or direct Area Festival qualification for next year. The survey closed on 17 March.

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