Peter Charles: A sport solely for the wealthy? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    With the harmonisation proposal (news, 23 March) at the forefront of everyone’s minds this week, it was a shock to see the entry fees for this year’s two-star classes at Bolesworth.

    I have just the one horse to jump, but there are only hospitality packages on offer. The cheapest one is almost £2,500 for two days, which includes entry for two horses.  The FEI guidelines for two-star are €350 (£303) per horse but Bolesworth’s approach seems to be relying entirely on pay cards.

    Organiser Nina Barbour undoubtedly has huge expenses to cover but should competitors be shouldering the burden? The two-star is after all only a sideshow to the four-star main event.

    The danger here is that other shows will want to follow suit — and then you end up with a highly elitist sport. Harmonisation aside, we need to address our own shop to make sure this doesn’t become the norm.

    I am surprised that British Showjumping has approved the schedule at all and aren’t more actively protecting the interests of British riders. It’s time to stand up for the future of the sport financially. For riders who want to succeed, it is already hard enough to produce a good horse and keep it without these sorts of costs.

    François Mathy Jnr, who is very active in the International Jumping Riders Club, returned from a meeting in Lausanne this week to confirm that the group had told the FEI it was wholly against harmonising.

    America in a world of its own

    If a global levelling of entry costs does occur, it should be in line with the European model, not the American one. America has done well with building its shows in recent years, but what needs to be kept in perspective is that the US circuit is full of extremely rich riders but very few producers. I have spoken to some riders who competed at Wellington this year and they told me everything was extremely expensive. Show organisers may be looking for a way of creating a lucrative business but it would make the sport one-dimensional and solely for the fabulously wealthy.

    If the proposal is followed through, jumping might survive at the lower levels but a young rider’s dream of getting to the Olympics on a normal budget would virtually be gone.

    The blame for this situation lies wholly at the FEI’s door — they should never have let America develop a circuit outside of the European rules. Incidentally, as an organisation they must be making a mint. Affiliation fees for a two-star show are £10k while a five-star is in excess of £18k for a week. And what do you get in return? A rulebook and free dope testing.

    You have to ask if the financial balance of the sport is wrong altogether. The top riders jumping at five-star are competing for far higher prize money and can easily afford to pay more in entries. They have four-star hotels, stabling and other services all provided for free but at two-star riders are jumping for less money and with much bigger overheads.

    Perhaps it’s time we asked the top end of the sport to help the bottom a little more.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 March 2017