Mark Phillips: Do we really need prize money? *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s eventing columnist questions whether regular events need to offer cash rewards

    September is here and eventing is still going, in part at least. Those venues that are running seem to be amazingly successful, with record entries and competitors being respectful of each other and Covid-19.

    Sadly, though, there have been too many casualties, including the recent news that Ballindenisk cannot take international entries. So many people from this side of the Irish Sea wanted to go. There were plans for everybody to be tested, travel on the same ferry, to stay in Ireland in one compound and even have food brought into that area, but still organisers could not satisfy local regulations.

    Everybody who is competing is getting used to “paperless eventing” and it saves organisers money. Some are enjoying no commentary, but more prefer to hear what is going on. Owners are inevitably frustrated when only one of them per horse is allowed on site, but most are accepting this as just one more coronavirus frustration.

    No prize money

    It’s remarkable that Aston-le-Walls can run six days of affiliated competition and the same weekend 30 miles away, Oxstalls can run three days of unaffiliated, with every day full to bursting at both locations.

    There was reduced prize money at Aston – prize money is optional under BE’s Covid rules – and none at Oxstalls, which begs the question how important is prize money?

    For a long time, roughly 10% of riders have won 90% of the prize money, therefore maybe 90% of competitors aren’t so fussed whether it’s there or not. Of course there should be rewards for winning at the flagship events. I’m not sure, though, that prize money is so important at the week in, week out fixtures.

    As a member of the British Eventing (BE) advisory group, it became very clear to me that the current cost of the sport for owners, riders and organisers is becoming an increasing burden. Hence, for some years now we have seen decreasing numbers at the top of the sport and a burgeoning unaffiliated market.

    Could giving organisers the option of offering something between pre-Covid prize levels and zero help make organisers’ lives easier and provide owners and riders with cheaper entries?

    Could this app help us?

    There is an app out of Brisbane, Australia, called Nominate that is already providing paperless eventing in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and will be launched under the Compete Easy banner in the US next year.

    Entries, stabling – including who you want stabled next to you, bedding and hook-ups – are all done on the app. Live-scoring from all phases goes straight from a phone or tablet to the app, where there are up-to-the second results for owners, riders and spectators.

    If such a simple app is already out there, I wonder why we are still trying to reinvent the wheel in this country as many organisers are still desperately frustrated with the inadequacies of the current BE system – entries and sectioning seem to have become easier, but the add-ons such as stabling and hook-ups are not so successful.

    Also, BE staff are spending hours supporting the current system by helping members through it. You would think we would want a system that would allow BE to reduce staffing levels and costs, rather than the other way around.

    Burghley sadness

    I wrote these words in the US last weekend – yes, I did get an exemption on the travel ban to the US for British citizens, but it was a nostalgic time for me with no Burghley.

    My first Burghley as a rider was 1967, my first as course-designer in 1989, so Burghley has been a major part of my life for over 50 years. Losing it was just one more sad Covid-19 frustration for me.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 September 2020