CEO Update: 13 November 2020
From where we are now, it is hard to remember how the start of this season felt. Whilst a wet and wild start to the year, there was little expectation of what was to come…
We lost several events in the first few weeks of the season to wet weather and then, following the difficult decision made in Mid-March by the Board in response to government directives to cancel events, very quickly the entire country was put into ‘lockdown’. Our sport hit a sudden stop - with no sign of when we may be able to get going again. Centrally at BE HQ, we made use of the Government’s furlough scheme, with the majority of staff being put onto furlough leave, some redundancies, and our COO Wendy McGowan and me also taking a pay cut during this period to help keep the finances viable. An awful lot of work continued behind the scenes to get sport restarted, with BE receiving permission to resume eventing towards the end of June.
Our first organisers to run under the COVID-19 Sport resumption protocols were Tweseldown, Barbury and Aske on the second weekend in July. The Organising teams and BE Officials did a fantastic job and proved – under scrutiny from many – that we could safely run sport within the COVID landscape.
Despite concerns about how many members would want to compete, the entry levels across the first six weeks of the restart were high. In response to the high demand, the Regional Coordinators and Sport Team worked hard with our Organisers to put on extra days of competition where these were possible –which is a great testament to the flexibility of both members and our Organisers. We know that for some the changes in competition days have been difficult – days’ leave have had to be changed, childcare arrangements adjusted, and multiple lorry trips to the same venue on different days. Inevitably, when there are additional days added, some will have to move from the advertised days. We appreciate the flexibility so many of you have shown.
There have also been events at which classes have been removed to enable timetabling to work. The levels of balloting and additional days were unprecedented. We have learnt a lot about how to quickly adjust the calendar and work in a different way to provide as many opportunities as we can to the membership. We will ensure these learnings are taken forward to 2021 and beyond.
It is heartening that – in light of everything this year has thrown at us all – we had broadly the same number of runs in the second half of the season this year compared with the same period last year.
Huge thanks must also go to our incredible army of BE volunteers. To each and every fence judge, collecting ring steward, starter, gate opener, pole picker, score collector (and all of the myriad of other vital roles without which an event could not take place) I give you my sincere thanks for making this season possible this year, and for continuing to serve your eventing community.
The delay in settlement of the abandonment insurance caused concern to many. We were delighted to finally receive full settlement of the claim and to be able to refund those who had entries outstanding. The policy again came into use towards the end of the season, where we lost a handful of events again to the elements. As we have communicated previously, the policy is in place for 2021 but we will be undertaking a review of the insurance and looking at options for 2022 onwards. We know that cost of this policy is key.
As we head into winter, the situation across the whole country is rapidly changing. We hope that we will be able to run some of the planned Baileys Winter Series competitions following the end of the recently announced new lockdown measures, and are adapting our protocols to ensure that we can run in a safe and compliant way once we are able to do so. We are also rapidly approaching our AGM. You will have received an email with details on how to use your vote, and we encourage you to do so. We will be running a remote AGM this year and look forward to seeing you there.
We know that many of you are interested in the work done by the BE Advisory Group that we advised you about earlier in the year. A summary of their work will be released shortly, and we are grateful to the group for the work that they have done for the sport. We are also grateful to our Stakeholder representatives from BEOA, ERA and EHOA – we have been in regular dialogue with these groups and will be continuing to consult with them over areas of change as work progresses. We encourage you to use these Stakeholder groups and details of the contacts for each are included in the weekly emails to members.
The IT Taskforce continues its work, with regular updates being available to members, and we continue to work with our Rider Working Groups on new initiatives and collating feedback from this season.
Looking ahead, we are currently working on the basis that the current COVID sport protocols will be in place for the start of next season and will continue to do what is necessary to ensure that we can run the sport in a safe and compliant way. We also have some exciting new initiatives which we will be telling you about soon.
Finally, a huge thank you to the BE HQ team. It’s been a tough year for many people but I am proud of the way the team have risen to the challenge and continued to do their best to provide the sport to the membership during some very difficult times.
I hope that you each keep safe and that you get the opportunity to enjoy your horses over the off season.