Posted on 20th November 2019

Results of BE Fixtures and Strategic Fixtures Review

Following the announcement of the International and Championships Classes in April 2019, BE commissioned an independent review of the Strategic Fixtures Calendar 2020-2025 (SFC 2020), which allocated UK based international events and BE Championships classes for 2020 onwards.


Process Overview

The first step saw organisers applying to hosting international fixtures for the period 2020-2025.  If there were multiple organisers applying for the same week, a scoring system was applied to each application.  A stakeholder panel then considered the results of the scoring for each week and made a recommendation where each fixture should be allocated.  Where there was an appeal by an organiser, this was heard by an appeals panel, which comprised different individuals to the original stakeholder panel, and after which the results of the tendering process were announced.

What followed

When the original outcomes were announced in April there was concern from many organisers and members that the outcome of the re-application process was not fully aligned with expectations in that the allocation was not well balanced. Those organisers who were not successful in re-application for their current international fixtures were understandably disappointed. As a result of the feedback received, the Chair of BE commissioned an independent review of the process undertaken by a group of individuals who could represent the stakeholders, referred to as the Review Group. BE committed to communicate the results to you, and that is the purpose of this letter.

The Review

The Reviewing Group (“RG”) was asked to consider the following points:

  1. Did the process adequately enable all the objectives to be achieved? (improve standards, geographical balance, viability)
  2. Was geographical consideration sufficiently taken into account when assessing supply and demand balancing?  What differences are there between the different levels (e.g. 1 or 2 star against 3 or 4 star)
  3. Does the scoring system deliver the right balance between commercial and sports considerations?
  4. Does the process provide adequate protection from subjectivity in scores being applied?
  5. Is there adequate check and balance on the overall outcome?
  6. Is the make upon the stakeholder panel and appeal panel sufficiently balanced and neutral?
  7. How could we improve communication between Regional Co-ordinators (RCs), organisers, BE and members?

The RG came back to BE with a number of findings and recommendations which have now been discussed with BE Board. These are outlined below and further development and /or implementation is underway.  Updates will be provided as we make progress on development and implementation of the findings.

Key recommendations:

  • A review of the geographical distribution of CCI2 and 3* events be undertaken such that any necessary adjustments can be implemented from 2023 (the year after the break clause in the initial six year contract), or earlier if it is necessary to add events.   Geography must be actively taken into account.  With Little Downham International now only running one level of international class as a pilot, it may be viable for other locations to do the same which could provide further opportunity.
  • It should be desirable, not mandatory, to hold more than one level of international class together.
  • A suitable location should be able to run international classes on more than one date, subject to being able to meet the relevant criteria.
  • Liaison with neighbouring international federations should form part of the future process to minimise conflicts with nearby overseas events.
  • A rolling three year contract with organisers should be considered to provide organisers with security of tenure, once the initial three year term has proven satisfactory.
  • A list of those national events which could possibly host an international class should be maintained.
  • A model for each level of event with key requirements based on a slimmed down version of the Belton replacement fixture process needs to be developed.
  • International locations need to be individually and, as far as is possible, independently assessed, as should national locations aspiring to host international classes in the future.
  • A combination of comprehensive and accurate reports by TA’s TD’s, Stewards and RC’s, along with rider/ owner feedback should be encouraged.  Riders and owners at all events should be encouraged to give feedback directly or indirectly via BE to organisers either through a hard copy questionnaire or an online version.  Anonymous feedback should not be permitted.   A culture of constructive feedback should be encouraged to develop.
  • The RC’s are an essential component of the process, and need to be appropriately resourced, with sufficient individuals with the knowledge of the organisers and locations, and the overall requirements of the calendar.  Retaining and developing experts is critical, as is effective management.
  • BE needs to be clear where responsibility for setting, monitoring and raising event standards lie. 
  • Communication with all stakeholders needs improvement, so that all necessary parties are fully engaged and informed.

Key findings:

  • The RG felt it was not appropriate to remove any classes from the calendar. Reversing decisions would also cause more unnecessary upset as well as likely requiring the whole process across the entire calendar to be restarted. 
  • Geographic spread had not been appropriately considered. With ever rising costs it is critical that as far as is possible the geographic distribution of events should not disadvantage owners or riders.
  • The RG felt it was too early to say whether or not the standard of events will improve, although the tender documents clearly set out the required standards. There was concern raised over uncontested weeks, where a location was awarded a fixture on the basis that there was no challenge from others.  The RG stressed that standards for these fixtures needed to be maintained also.
  • The RG found that the criteria for assessing and judging viability was accurate and correct.  However, it noted that provided that the event does not expect to be bailed out by BE in the case of low entries, if the organiser decides knowingly to run at a loss that must be the organiser’s prerogative.
  • The position that a location needs to host more than one international class should be reviewed, and it was suggested that it should be desirable to hold more than one level, but not essential.
  • The RG suggested that Championships should require higher standards. Currently the standards produced for International events are a “minimum standard”, and there was a recommendation that enhanced standards should be produced for venues wishing to host prestigious BE Championships.
  • The Scoring system was found not to be sufficiently effective, and its continued use in its current form was not recommended.
  • The RG found that the process would always be partly subjective, on the basis that even if the same team make the judgements for all locations, there will inevitably be subjectivity.  The RG recommended that all locations wanting to hold international classes should be inspected, however, noted that the scheduling of these inspections was important so as to not overload the BE team. The RG felt a rolling programme of inspections was required, such that in the three year period leading to a break clause in the contracts all locations are visited.  This would also provide the opportunity to ensure that any commitments made in the bidding process have been met.
  • The RG found that the very fact the stakeholder panel was comprised of stakeholders meant it could not be neutral.  It also felt the original panel was too large, and that the panel used for determining the Belton replacement fixture was more appropriate.  It was noted that the time requirement for the panel to assess every international date would be significant, and that perhaps this would be unviable in its current form below CCI4*.
  • The RG found that, by the very fact a review had been necessary, there had been inadequate check and balance on the overall outcome.  They raised the suggestion that the Fixtures process may require more active oversight, which would help ensure that the desired outcome is correct and possible to deliver.
  • Communication was considered to be the overarching factor causing difficulties. Whilst the process distanced RCs, there should have been more in depth consultations between the RCs and their organisers, as well as greater assistance in preparing their submissions in the correct way and to an appropriate standard.  It was felt that greater expectation management could have been carried out – including recommendations about a level for which a given organiser could reasonably have expected to have been successful.   Rather than strengthen the relationship between an organiser and RC, the process has created a divide.   The RG have recommended that RCs should be actively involved with their organisers, and managing organiser expectations should be a key part of their role.   The RG found that some organisers did not properly understand the standards required to deliver an international event, and have recommended that a video of locations that well demonstrate the standards to which organisers should aspire should be produced. 
  • The RG supported the suggestion for the CCI3*-S to be relocated from Little Downham to Bicton (week 35), and noted the proposal was supported by the Fixtures Team, the World Class programme, and both organisers.
  • There appears to be some geographical gaps in the calendar at the lower levels, which the RG hoped the national calendar would address.
  • The RG supported the recommendation of the introduction of ‘pilot’ CCI1* classes at different locations to assess popularity and viability, which aligned with membership feedback that this would be a good addition to the calendar.
  • The RG recommend that it reconvene next year to review progress.