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Members’ consultation – Area Festivals

last updated on April 02, 2016 09:15

Members’ consultation – Area Festivals

Area Festivals have become an integral part of the sport since their launch in 2000. What started as an aspirational championship has grown into the largest participation series under British Dressage. In 2015, over 7000 qualifications were achieved from a membership of roughly 14,500 and nearly 4000 combinations took part, that’s 28% of the membership. What’s more impressive is that Petplan Equine has been on board since their inception and we’d like to thank them for their loyal support.

As part of our strategic review of all championships, last month BD’s internal Championship working group met with some riders, organisers and judges to discuss ideas for Area Festivals in 2017 and beyond.

All were in agreement that the Area Festivals play a vital role in the competition structure within BD. However, due to the increasing demand for the competitions, the current structure is operating at maximum capacity, resulting in some loss in the quality of the member experience.

There was also a strong feeling that over the years the Area Festivals had lost some of their original ‘grassroots’ feel and the rules allow some highly competent combinations to contest Area Festivals, when perhaps they should be following the Regional Championship pathway.

Early monitoring of the new competition structure has provided data around competitors in the Silver section, which could affect the Area Festivals. Some of the more capable combinations currently contesting Silver realistically should be Gold, while some in Gold are not high achievers and could be in Silver to give them a chance at Area Festival qualification. It’s still early days so we’ll continue to monitor and review the statistics closely.

Some of the key points to come out of the discussion were:

1. There is appetite from both organisers and riders to have more high quality Area Festival competitions to accommodate the growing numbers and demand.

2. In the interest of maintaining a high quality championship show, the Area Festival and Winter Championships should remain together at Hartpury.

3. The ‘big occasion’ feel of a championship was of high importance to members. They want (and expect) the competition to have a different, more exciting experience, not just what they’d find at a normal competition.

4. Area Festivals need to remain inclusive and the qualification should not be raised as a means of managing the numbers participating.

5. At present, the Area Festivals are clustered around the back end of the year with an early spring final. Perhaps Area Festivals could start earlier in May?

6. BD needs to increase its efforts to ensure that venues holding Area Festivals are delivering to set standards and that venues not complying are not be awarded festivals in future years.

7. We need to be mindful that Area Festivals do not become too similar to the standards seen and expected at Regionals. It’s here that an adjustment to eligibility of the Silver section should have a positive impact.

8. The option of creating Gold, Silver and Bronze sections was proposed. However, it was felt that a revision of the Silver eligibility would be more beneficial for the sport as a whole, rather than creating additional sections.

9. There was mixed opinion on the popularity of the two round structure at the championships with semi-finals discussed as a potential alternative. It was felt that wider member consultation would be required.

10. It was acknowledged that if more Area Festivals were scheduled, and the system stayed the same, the number of combinations qualifying from each Area Festival to the Championships would drop to just the winner or top two. It was felt that this would be demoralising for those who competed in Area Festivals, as the chances of qualifying through to the championships would be greatly reduced.

11. The group agreed that a positive step would be to incorporate a youth element to Area Festivals to encourage more young people to get involved. It was felt that it would be beneficial to have a specific section at each level for Area Festivals. This has the potential to increase opportunities for both youth and senior riders.

The meeting generated lots of ideas; however, no concrete conclusions were reached. We now need your help in shaping what the Area Festivals will look like in the future. We’d be grateful if you’d participate in this short survey relating to Area Festivals to provide us with the insight we need to produce the right level of competition for members.

Please click here to take part. The survey closes on 31 May 2016.

BD would like to take the opportunity to thank the riders, organisers and judges who participated in the meeting and giving up their valuable time to help British Dressage.

Further discussion around Area Festivals will take place at the BD members meeting during the Winter Championships at Hartpury on Thursday 07 April at 6.30pm where everyone is welcome to attend and provide their feedback.