Adam Cromarty: ‘Are big money unaffiliated shows a temptation to stretch the rules?’


  • Adam Cromarty shares his views on the rise of unaffiliated shows offering large prize funds, including considerations around clean sport and providing a fair playing field

    IT’S that time of year again when showjumping riders are either freezing or abroad. With Covid-19 still lurking about like a creepy uncle at Christmas and the inflated travel costs caused by Brexit, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in the numbers who are staying on home soil.

    It is hard to compete with a multi-ring event in the sun, but our national calendar could still evolve more, in an effort to provide something similar to the foreign circuits. I’m currently involved with Jump North, a tour that is running four events back to back between Northcote Stud
    and Aintree.

    It has been very well received and I hope it’s something that will continue to grow. We continually need to re-evaluate what would help riders of all levels achieve their goals and enjoy the sport.

    Show venues become known for their strengths, weaknesses and the characters you find there. This individuality is hugely important, but I think it would be a positive step if venues within the same area, and even nationally, found a way to work in a more cohesive fashion.

    The national show calendar is organised by British Showjumping (BS) and is designed to stop shows clashing with each other. However, the market seems flooded and it has become more common to see shows cancelling due to lack of entries.

    Venues have to work to offer something different but at the same time, the market has to be there to attract.

    An alternative to British Showjumping?

    TO add to this problem, there is an emerging new breed of unaffiliated shows with large, four-figure prize funds. Normally, I am the first one to sing the praises of anyone who wants to try something new and invest into our sport, but in this case I’m not warming up my vocal cords quite yet.

    Unaffiliated shows have always been a great starting point, usually offering token-level prize money and run to around 1m, with riders then graduating to affiliated shows. These new events are different and seem to be looking to offer an alternative to BS.

    At first glance, I can see how attractive the prize money is, although there is no reason why this couldn’t be invested into BS shows. Being able to compete without it showing on a horse’s record has clear advantages, for a variety of reasons. But it’s still important to stop and examine the wider implications.

    First, all affiliated multi-day shows are approved by the BS National Sport Committee to help prevent clashes. This process happens twice a year and it allows for a degree of planning. By adding unaffiliated weekends that will attract the same riders, with no consultation or regard for other show organisers, the sport will be diluted even further and venues will suffer.

    “There is no room for abuse”

    AN absolute focus on horse welfare is the only way our sport can exist in the modern world, and both BS and the FEI have a clear framework to help ensure that there is no room for abuse or the use of prohibited substances. There is a published workflow about how misdemeanours are dealt with and records are kept to identify patterns of behaviour.

    Other than singular businesses banning customers and turning away money, there is no other remedy available to those who operate away from a governing body.

    As the sums of money get bigger, for some, the temptation to stretch the rules could potentially grow at a similar rate.

    So other than being able to run a show on any chosen date and for riders to be able to compete without it showing on a horse’s record, I’m struggling to see the long term advantages of these new cash-focused shows.

    This is just my opinion, though, and I know many will disagree. Show organisers are free to innovate, but surely it’s best to do it in a way that
    is backed up by a structure that is in place to provide clean sport and a fair playing field?

    • Do you agree with Adam’s views? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 20 January

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