British Eventing has announced its intention to recommence competition in July.

Sarah Wells-Gaston

The last British Eventing competitions were at Swalcliffe Park and Lincolnshire, with all competition since this date abandoned due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.

However, with the easing of Government restrictions, the sports governing body has been looking at how it can resume sport safely. And in its latest update, it has set out how it expects to return to competition.

British Eventing CEO Jude Matthews said: “Many of you may have seen the headlines regarding the return to competitive sport. However, the guidance issued has not yet provided us with the ability to restart our sport. Based on the Government’s published ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’, we are working towards being able to recommence competitive sport from 4th July. This will be dependent on us being able to deliver a safe, socially distanced sport, and we are confident that we can do this. On this basis, and only in line with any Government guidelines, we are working with the organisers in July with the intention of resuming sport from 4th July.”

So, what can we expect should competition resume on this date. We have outlined some of the guidelines below.

When will entries open?

Each event organisers has provided BE with a ‘decision to run’ date. This is the date by which they will need to make the decision to run and start event specific preparation. BE has said it is important that members intending to enter do so in advance of this date – if there are not enough entries by ballot date for the event to run viably, the organiser may cancel. Secondly, entries will also only be opened once it is certain that Government guidelines will allow he event to run, but the intention is that entries are open for each event seven to ten days ahead of the decision to run date. The decision to run date will also be ballot date.

What if the Government introduces another lockdown?

Due to British Eventing’s ongoing dispute with the underwriters, it is currently uncertain whether any further lockdowns would be covered under the abandonment insurance policy. British Eventing is therefore preparing on a ‘worst case’ scenario basis that pandemic cover will not be available. It has agreed a Pandemic Refund Policy with event organisers. The amount refunded by the organiser will be a minimum of 30% of the net entry fee plus any applicable VAT, up to three days prior to the start date of the competition. This is only the case for a pandemic related cancellation. Each organiser can return more money if they wish and will publish any additional refund information on their schedule. British Eventing recommends that members check the Pandemic Refund Policy for each event prior to making their entry. Details of any refunds provided in excess of the minimum will be shown on their schedule on the BE website. If it is agreed with the underwriters that cover for future lockdowns is covered by the policy, then all refunds would be issued via the policy and the organiser will not be required to refund entries as currently proposed.

Will the start fee be refunded in this instance?

These will be collected with your entry fee, and will be refunded to you if, for whatever reason, you do not start the competition.

Does this mean that the abandonment insurance is no more?

Understandably, members are questioning whether the abandonment insurance is now necessary. As a reminder, the policy still covers the abandonment of an event as a result of other circumstances in the same way it did previously, such as heavy rainfall. The vast majority of claims under the policy are weather related, which is still valid going forward.

Will balloting still take place?

The ballot process will continue as normal, with the balloting priorities as they are shown in the rulebook.

Will eventing be different when it restarts?

The experience at events will inevitably be different due to the need to maintain social distancing. British Eventing’s plans have been designed to minimise risk for all competitors, volunteers and officials. This will continue to be updated as more information is available from the Government and feedback from stakeholders. Guidance will be issued to all event organisers to help them run safely, and will be making appropriate changes to the rulebook to reflect the changes in the sport.

Will times be allocated for warm ups?

Currently competitors will not be allocated a specific time to warm up. However, each event will have restrictions on the number of people who can be each warm up area at any one time. This information will be clearly available at the entrance to each warm up area. These numbers will be calculated based on the space available in each warm up area to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Will I have to go on my allocated times?

Yes. It will be crucial for competitors to stick to all their allocated times. This is to ensure the competition runs smoothly as the timetabling for each event will be based on the event’s site and warm up capacity. Riders will not be able to slot in, and if competitors miss their time there is a risk they will not be able to compete. It is likely that there will be a requirement to track and trace, which means it is very important that event organisera know who is on site at any point in time. Staying on times is key to being able to restart sport and run smoothly and safely.

Will entry fees be increasing?

No. As a result of the changes to the way an organiser will have to run an event due to social distancing and minimising contact, organisers will experience a saving in some costs, for example infrastructure costs due to score boards and tentage not being required on-site. Therefore, although each event will be permitted to run less competitors the reduction in entries income should be offset by other cost-savings.

How many horses can I ride each day?

Under the current rules, a member can only ride five horses’ cross country on any day of competition. As some organisers will be running with restricted numbers to maintain social distancing, there may be some events who will need to impose an additional limit to be able to timetable the day.

What will affect the number of competitors an event can run?

Each event site is different. As British Eventing is recommending 15msq per horse for the warm up (in line with BD and BS), the size of the site will limit the number of people who can warm up at the same time in each warm up area, which will in turn affect the number of competitors an event can run in one day. It is also recommending timetabling be altered to provide additional time between dressage tests, and each show jumping round to allow the judges time to carry out their jobs without a writer or team to support them.

How many owners will be allowed to attend?

When British Eventing’s initial plans were published, they were drafted on the basis that there would be a limit on the number of people allowed on one site at one time due to mass gathering restrictions). Hence the plans focused on keeping the numbers to an absolute minimum. As the Government is easing restrictions, there has been more focus on household groups. As a result, British Eventing will continue to flex plans as restrictions are further eased, but it would not restrict the numbers of owners where there is not a need to do so.

What about dogs?

Overwhelming feedback told British Eventing that members still want to be able to take dogs to an event. British Eventing has listened, and the next release of guidance will reflect this. Whilst there is a risk, in terms of handling of loose dogs it is felt this can be sufficiently managed on event by the organiser and officials to minimise this.

What about catering and tradestands?

In light of the easing of restrictions, British Eventing is comfortable that the provision of outside catering will be possible, provided that social distancing is maintained. All food should be eaten outside, and any event with a restaurant type area will only be able to serve takeaway food under current guidance. It will monitor advice on retail outlets, which would apply to other tradestands, and keep under review

Are we definitely going ahead on 4th July?

The resumption of sport is dependent on the Government and guidance from the BEF – provided the easing of restrictions continues in the way it is expected, then yes.

What will the remainder of the fixtures calendar look like?

Inevitably there will be change, however, the revised Resumption Fixtures Calendar information will be available on the BE website and members are encouraged to check this carefully. Those events who have already indicated they will not run are marked as cancelled, and British Eventing will work with organisers to put in additional events and classes as necessary.

Further guidance regarding vaccinations, memberships and horse season tickets will be issued in due course.

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