Update: Championship Pathway and Calendar Review

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 09:20 GMT

As you’ll already be aware, the Sport Operations Committee has been focusing on developing the Championship pathways available within British Dressage. Earlier this year, a Working Group was set up to review, evaluate and analyse our existing Championships in order to make a series of recommendations and proposals for changes to the current system, with effect from 2020 onwards.

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The Working Party set out to achieve the following objectives:
- Simplification and evolution of the current Championship structure
- Improved member satisfaction, with increased opportunity
- Reduced administration and central resource
- Development, maintenance and growth of membership
- Increase in competitor participation and starter numbers.

Summary of Key Findings

Using an evidence based approach which included analysis of results, a sample of starters, survey feedback and consultation, an imbalance in our current programme was identified, which has had an impact across our sport, on competitors, organisers and officials.

Most of our Championship finals fall in the third and fourth quarter of the year. This results in a congested programme, where members have a number of different Championship options at certain times of the year, but very limited opportunities available at other points in the calendar.

It was also recognised that the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships currently span over three rule books and an 18 month time period, which in itself is far from ideal from a planning perspective. Most importantly, this does not support progression through the levels and has often resulted in confusion amongst some members.

Due to the prolonged time period from Area Festival qualification through to the Championship finals, some horses have already progressed to higher levels – and in some cases have qualified at Regionals for the Winter Championships.
The findings from the recent membership survey supported the recommendations of the Championship Working Group, with 60% saying that they wanted to see the calendar more evenly spread over the course of the year and a third stating that there were too many different championship options available currently.

Since the new competition structure was introduced four years ago, members requested the opportunity to have two championships at Bronze, Silver and Gold. We piloted the Bronze and Summer Music Championships in 2018; however, these have not delivered the cohesive all-inclusive programme that we originally envisaged. In particular, the leader board qualification system caused confusion and was often counter-productive, as riders have stopped competing by mid-season once they fell outside the qualification places. So it actually acted as a disincentive to compete.

In addition, the message back from the Member Survey 2019 was clear: we need to simplify, streamline and consolidate the current competition structure where possible. Therefore our aim is to revitalise the Area Festival Championship Series by essentially mirroring the existing Regional Championship structure to provide consistency and continuity at all levels of the sport.

Exciting Changes Ahead

The first major step is to realign the seasons. The 2020 Members’ Handbook will be effective from 1 December 2019 and will end on 31 December 2020 (and therefore cover a 13 month period, as a one-off), with the aim of establishing two equal competition seasons for each half of the year. So from 2021 the Members’ Handbook will start on 1 January and the two seasons will run from 1 January – 30 June (summer) and then 1 July – 31 December (winter).

Based on the numbers competing, we have decided to stop running the Bronze, Summer Music and Small Tour as separate Championships. Revisions to the Area Festival structure, as outlined below, will mean that the vast majority of opportunities will be covered by the summer series – so members won’t lose any chances to qualify for a Championship.

Plus, all qualifications will now be on a points basis – rather than a mixture of points, percentages and leader boards, which members have often found confusing. Competitors will now just have to check what number of points are required for each level and Championship.

The move to two equal seasons will mean that riders in the Silver section will need to plan ahead, based on their Championship ambitions. It will be necessary to choose your competition pathways carefully, as there will be restrictions on competing in Area Festivals and Regionals in the same calendar year.

Petplan Equine Area Festival Series 2020 – a new era for grass roots competition

Having consulted with our sponsors Petplan Equine and venue organisers, who have been very supportive of our plans, we’re delighted to announce that we will be introducing a two season Area Festival Series from next year onwards; a new Championship in the summer months to complement the existing Area Festival Series in the winter. This includes a new addition, the Summer Area Festival Music Championship for Silver and Bronze sections.

The 2019 Petplan Area Festival Championships that is currently underway will take place at Hartpury as usual in April 2020. Qualification for the inaugural Petplan Equine Summer Area Festivals will start on 1 December to qualify for the Summer Championships, which will take place in September 2020 (at a venue to be confirmed). Qualification for the Winter Area Festivals then starts on 1 July, with the Winter Area Festival Championships once again at Hartpury in April 2021.

The new Petplan Equine Area Festival structure will feature:

- Two distinct seasons, providing equal qualification periods from 2021 onwards.
- A points based qualification system, in line with BD Regional Championships.
- Between 16 and 18 Summer Area Festivals, mapped to provide a geographical spread across the country, with the Championship taking place in September.
- Music classes included at the Summer Area Festivals Championships for Bronze and Silver sections, from Prelim to Inter I.
- Between eight and 10 Winter Area Festivals, again spread across the regions to provide a good geographical spread, with the Championship Finals at Hartpury, alongside the Winter Championships in April.

Due to limited demand and relatively small numbers of qualifying combinations, Inter II will no longer be part of the Area Festival Championship Series and we will look to incorporate this elsewhere within the competition structure. A separate Working Group has been set up to consider the championship options available at FEI levels for Small, Medium and Big Tour, with further proposals to follow.

The move to incorporate the music sections within the Summer Area Festivals mean that Gold Music sections will no longer feature as part of the summer series. Taking on board feedback we have received from members, it is important we re-affirm the status of the Area Festival Series as the grass roots championships for riders in the Bronze and Silver sections.
In addition, there will no longer be separate Under 21 classes. Instead, the top scoring U21 rider at each level will receive a rosette to recognise their achievements.

These proposals were discussed in detail and approved by the Sport Operations Committee and Board last month, so we wanted to let all members know more about these exciting plans at the earliest opportunity. Whether you’re a competitor, owner, organiser, official or supporter, we hope that you will welcome this evolution of our Championship programme, ahead of implementing the new-look structure later this year.

Full details on the relevant rule changes, including the qualification and eligibility criteria, will be announced at the end of August in time for inclusion in the 2020 Members’ Handbook.. For now, we've prepared a FAQ document to help with any questions. Initial expressions of interest have been received from organisers and a formal tendering process will take place over the coming weeks before allocating Area Festival fixtures to venues for the next three year cycle, beginning in 2020.

These initiatives are in direct response to feedback we have received from members and follow extensive data analysis. As this demonstrates, we’ve listened to you and taken your comments on board: 70% of you said that the competition structure is currently too complex, 51% wanted more straightforward rules and 60% wanted to see a more even spread of the calendar.

We hope that these new initiatives will go some way to addressing these points and that members will embrace this revised championship structure, heralding an exciting new era for the Petplan Equine Area Festivals – our longest running, most popular and successful competition series.

Click to read the BD member update