Cuts of 25-40% to sport’s funding from the Exchequer are widely expected in the Spending Review on 25 November. The Sport and Recreation Alliance have started a campaign called #Getyourkiton encouraging support from grassroots sport (volunteers and participants) to try and reduce or prevent these cuts.
The benefits of sport and its impact on health and well-being (especially as equines offer both physical and mental rewards) is plain to see, but I have concerns about how the money is spent. Is it fair that government funding is spent on human resources, who spend a great proportion of their time navigating around the political minefield and layers of the various organisations and bodies that make up equestrian and also wider sport?
Yet only a minority of those at the coalface, the volunteers who give up their days, weekends and evenings to support equestrian clubs and events or the operators of riding schools, who rise daily come rain or shine to enable people to take their first steps into riding have actually seen tangible evidence of the £9.2million that has been awarded by Sport England to equestrian sport between 2009-2017.
Various campaigns come and go without a direct call to action or follow through, and disillusion is rife. So should National Governing Bodies (NGBs) be allowed to rely so heavily on government funding when sport has the capacity to generate £17 billion for the economy? Won’t these cuts force NGBs like British Equestrian Federation to run more commercially, seeking support and partnerships with retailers and corporates for mutual social gain? Surely this puts them on a level playing field with the riding schools and clubs who are part of their initiatives, as they have to be viable!
So maybe these reforms will benefit the long term future and provide much needed social change (get your coat Lord Grantham, Downton is a changing) and leave us with NGBs who have a deep understanding of their customers (in order for them to survive), empowered staff that can operate with passion and flexible organisations to adapt quickly to new trends.
That would be a nice thing to see, but who knows? Watch this space!