British Showjumping restructure thwarted once again

  • Plans to revise the structure of British Showjumping (BS) have been thwarted for a second time, as discontent grows among the society’s ranks.

    BS wants to replace its board of 22 with a sporting council and slimmed-down, eight-member board.

    The plans were vetoed at its AGM in August and, following a series of “stormy” regional meetings, voted down again at an extraordinary general meeting on 20 September.

    BS chief executive Iain Graham said: “We had about 700 votes, with 55% against and 45% for. People are generally in favour, but areas of discontent are the planned staff members on the board and whether the sporting council would have enough control.”

    BS wants the board to comprise of three staff members — Mr Graham, finance director Charles Purser and a national director of sport — plus chairman Michael Mac and four others.

    All board members would have to stand for re-election every four years.

    The current board agreed to stand down earlier this year, but Mr Graham suggested chairman Michael Mac and BS performance development manager Clare Whitaker should automatically go forward.

    Mr Graham told H&H: “Michael was originally elected by the members to serve until 2012, so we’re not proposing anything different. BS has had three chief executives in three years, so we need continuity.”

    But BS has been dogged with problems. Last autumn, members were furious to learn that some board members were paying themselves £400 a day, plus expenses. Mr Mac defended his 2008 claim for £20,000 as “totally legitimate”.

    And in August, Oxfordshire area rep Chris Parker tackled Mr Mac about the £30,000 losses made last year by the Scope jumping festival, an event for which he is company secretary.

    The north-west region has asked that the size of the board be raised to 10, with five members elected by members.

    South-west regional director and current executive board member Julian Trim said: “My region is happy with a board of eight, but wants at least 50% to be representatives from the sporting council. And we only want one staff member on it.”

    Nick Davies, director of The Hand Equestrian Centre, said the board must be more accountable, adding: “We need some form of external assessment to ensure directors are performing correctly. It needs to be run like a business.”

    Regional directors have now been asked to garner feedback from members, and a series of open forums will be held before the end of the year, with a view to putting forward another proposal early next summer.

    Mr Graham added: “We can’t go back to members before the next AGM, so we’ll work with the structure until next year.”

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (30 September, ’10)

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