British Eventing has released an updated statement today (June 4) expressing its intent to return to competition on July 4, the date on which the UK will begin to reopen the hospitality industry, cinemas, and places of worship. Do we consider most one-day events places of worship? Totally, baby. The most recent easing of England’s lockdown — which differs from those in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — saw groups of up to six people allowed to practice some sports together, as well as the resumption of one-on-one coaching in an outdoor setting.
Now, following the release of Stage Three of the UK government’s five-stage plan for the resumption of elite sport — catchily titled ‘Return to Domestic Competition – No Spectators’, or RTDC — British Eventing has been able to formulate its own long-awaited plan. Though Stage Three doesn’t allow for an immediate reopening, the guidance issued in ‘Our Plan to Rebuild: the UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy‘ has allowed BE to set a working date for sport to recommence in line with new safety policies.
“This will be dependant on us being able to deliver a safe, socially distanced sport, and we are confident that we can do this,” says BE. “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.”
A recent resumption survey distributed to BE members has offered some insight for the organisation moving forward.
The statement provided answers to a number of questions regarding logistics as we approach this second season of 2020.
When will entries open?
Each event will supply BE with a ‘decision to run’ date, the date by which they’ll need to make the call to run so that they can start their preparations. Consider this the new ballot date – you’ll need to get your entries in beforehand, so that the organisers have an idea of viability. If there aren’t sufficient entries by the decision to run date, organisers may opt to cancel.
BE will only open entries when government guidelines make it certain that the event in question will be able to run. As of now, they’re planning to open entries 7–10 days before the decision to run date. The fixtures list will be updated to show this new ballot date — and entry status — clearly.
What happens if there’s another full lockdown?
BE remains embroiled in a dispute with their insurance policy’s underwriters, which has put on hold the refunds due from events cancelled at the beginning of lockdown. Because of this, it’s unlikely that any pandemic-related cancellations over the next few months will be covered by an abandonment policy. With this in mind, BE is working on a ‘Pandemic Refund Policy’ with its constituent organisers.
While this offers some financial security, it’s not quite what we’ve all become used to under the usual policy. If an event is cancelled due to a second wave lockdown, the entrant will receive a refund of, at minimum, 30% of the net entry fee paid, plus applicable VAT. This will be valid up to three days before the competition’s projected start date, and organisers may choose to return a higher percentage if they wish. Refund information pertaining to each event will be found in its schedule on the BE website. Start fees will be paid with your entry and will be refunded to you if you aren’t able to start the competition for any reason.
However, if the current insurance debacle can be sorted and the underwriters agree to cover future pandemic-related cancellations in the abandonment policy, you can expect the refund process to be as it was in the good old days. You’ll still be required to pay abandonment insurance, mind – the policy is still in place to cover all the ‘normal’ cancellation reasons, such as heavy rain.
How’s balloting going to work?
No change — balloting priorities will be as they’ve always been. Get your stickers out.
Will times be strict, or can I still put my number on the board for jumping phases?
It’s time for us all to get really good at time management, because your allocated time is now set in stone. This is key for a few reasons — firstly, BE will likely need to implement a track-and-trace policy to be allowed to go ahead, so they’ll need to know who’s in the collecting ring or competition ring at any given time. Secondly, there’ll be a limit to the number of people allowed to warm up at once. Sticking to times makes this much easier to police and will hopefully avoid a time limit being placed on the collecting rings. If you miss your time, unfortunately, your competition is likely to end there, though there may be some flexibility from event to event.
How many competitors will be allowed to compete?
It’s necessary for events to reduce the amount of riders on-site each day, though no firm number has been delivered yet. While riders are currently allowed to compete five horses per day, this will likely be reduced as well.
What about my owners?
Initially, one owner per horse was to be allowed on site — but now, with the increased emphasis on household groups in government guidance, there’s a bit of wiggle room there for family groups who own horses. BE’s current stance is that they won’t restrict owner numbers unless they need to.
Okay, this sounds like my entry fees are going to go through the roof. What’s it going to cost me?
Actually, entry fees will remain blissfully untouched — BE’s view is that each event will save enough money on reducing tents, scoreboards, and so on, that the costs will be balanced out, despite fewer competitors.
It’s been sunny for like, four years straight now. What’s being done to prepare the ground?
BE is working closely with organisers to ensure they have sufficient means of preparation — including access to the BE-owned stable of ground prep machinery.
I heard you’ll be banning dogs. Is this true?
Nope! After overwhelming feedback from members, BE has relaxed their stance on dogs, provided we can all be sensible and not manhandle one another’s pooches with our grubby mitts. This will come as welcome news to some and very sad news to others. Talk amongst yourselves, kids.
If I’m honest, I only event because running cross-country justifies my filthy burger habit. Will I be able to get my fix from July 4?
You will indeed. Now that lockdown is easing slightly and more restaurants are opening for takeaways, BE is comfortable providing catering vans as long as social distancing is enforced. How good is that first cheeseburger going to taste? SO good. We’ll even welcome the previously unforgivable unmelted grated cheese on the chips.
What’s the rest of the year’s calendar going to look like?
Prepare for some changes, but head over to the British Eventing website and look out for the Resumption Fixtures Calendar, which will be available in the coming weeks. The current fixtures list clearly shows which events have been cancelled, and BE will be working with organisers to fill gaps with new or date-adjusted fixtures.
Cool, I’m well and truly excited now! But wait — is this actually going to happen?
Look, ultimately the government and, latterly, the British Equestrian Federation have the final say here, and if we see a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, this could all be shelved. But at the moment? It’s looking pretty good from here.
Oh, hey, I’ve just remembered the kerfuffle about vaccinations — where do I stand with those?
Stay tuned for further guidance there, sports fans. BE will also be contacting members about membership and season tickets, so watch your inbox.
In the meantime, dust off your back protector, spruce up those 20m circles, and let’s Go Eventing!