The Point-to-Point Board is keen to dispel the uncertainty that has surrounded the sport since the introduction of the hunting ban, and has invited meeting organisers to submit fixtures for the 2006 season.
“The ban on hunting with hounds has understandably created a degree of uncertainty for the future of our sport, but we want to dispel emphatically that uncertainty,” says independent Chairman of PTPB, Robert Waley-Cohen.
Some 90% of the 2005 fixtures are run by hunts and would obviously be at risk if the hunts disbanded. The MFHA, however, is eager to clarify that this is highly unlikely to happen. “The vast majority of hunts are determined to carry on hunting – within the law – next year. Their annual point-to-point will remain a key social event and fundraiser,” says the MFHA representative on the PTPB, Mike Felton.
“The feedback from the 14 point-to-point areas across England, Scotland and Wales has been positive,” agrees Point-to-Point Secretaries Association chairman, John Wilson. “With the MFHA telling us that hunts are keen to continue, our fixture committees are very happy to be sticking to the tried and tested organisational set up.”
His reassurance resonates at every echelon of the sport, which continues to attract some 150 newcomers every year. “It is encouraging to all participants to hear that the established infrastructure is going to be preserved through the continuation of the existing organisations with their years of experience and knowledge, together with the financial underpinning that comes with the hunt-based heart of our sport,” says chairman of the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association, Simon Claisse.
The Board are now asking organisers to send in fixture dates “so that everyone in the sport can plan ahead with confidence,” according to Waley-Cohen. They hope to have a provisional fixture list in place at some point in April, according to PPSA secretary Lucy Brack.
“We want to do whatever we can to ensure point-to-pointing remains in rude health for a very long time to come,” says the Jockey Club’s Racecourse and Point to Point Department Manager, Fraser Garrity. “To hear that there is such a will to continue from organisers and participants alike is excellent news.”