NZ’s horse-sport body clears first Covid hurdle, but ‘must remain nimble’ – report

New Zealand’s jumping team won the Abu Dhabi Nations Cup. On podium, from left, Tom Tarver, Bruce Goodin, Desiree Johnson, Daniel Meech, and Richard Gardner. © FEI Helen Cruden

The national body governing horse sport in New Zealand has felt the chill winds from Covid-19, but it says it has emerged in better financial shape than many other sports.

Fortunately, the pandemic swept into New Zealand in the latter part of the competition season, which meant the impact on its income was not as severe as it would have been in the lead-up to the new season.

ESNZ's 2020 annual report.
ESNZ’s 2020 annual report.

During April and May, the income of Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) fell by 82% when compared with the same month last year. This improved to 44% less in May and then improved again to a 22% reduction in June.

Figures since then show a retained 20% minimum drop in income across the start of 2020-21 year.

“This is concerning,” ESNZ chief executive Dana Kirkpatrick and board chairwoman Lynda Clark wrote in their report in the organisation’s just-released review of the 2019/2020 year.

To counter the Covid-19-related drop in income ESNZ received the wage subsidy offered by the government for affected enterprises, and it also received the government extension to the scheme.

The government database shows the organisation received a total of $152,308 in wage subsidies for 13 staff.

Kirkpatrick and Clark said the organisation cut all travel and accommodation and reduced costs wherever it could.

“This has meant ESNZ is in a sustainable position currently but will have to monitor and analyse finances carefully for the next year and beyond, depending on how long the Covid situation continues,” they said.

Much will depend on what effect any mandated Covid-19 restrictions will have on the sport in coming seasons.

“We … need to plan and be flexible enough to adapt and react to changes,” they said.

“If anything, the pandemic now offers sport an opportunity to use the crisis as a catalyst for change, to think differently and to embrace new ways of doing things that we might not have thought possible before.”

ESNZ recorded a $458,923 surplus for the 2019/2020 year, 19.8% lower than the previous financial year. The fall largely arose from a 15% fall in revenue, some of which is through Covid-19 affecting the end of the competition season.

Income from funding, grants, and sponsorships fell by 24% and operational revenue decreased by 5%.

Spending fell in line with revenue, by 15%. Decreases were seen in employee-related costs (2%), high-performance related costs (39%), and other operating expenditure (9%), mainly through reductions in accommodation, meals and travel (45%), and competition and event expenses (27%).

“A significant factor to these decreases was due to the Covid-19 pandemic during the last quarter of the financial year.”

Total membership fell from 7490 in 2019 to 6954 in 2020, which Kirkpatrick and Clark described as a slight correction attributed to the end of the competition season being cancelled.

The number of horses registered showed a slight increase, from 6541 to 6644.

All disciplines showed a reduction in discipline starts purchased for the year. However, these were offset for Dressage and Jumping with an increase in casual starts/day memberships.

“The positive in that, is that the introduction of casual day memberships has been useful for those members who want to compete in a few events throughout the season.”

Financially, the standout disciplines for the year were Dressage and Showjumping.

Dressage achieved a surplus of $58,221, up from $20,215 the previous year. While it had a modest decrease in revenue from levies entry fees, mainly because of the postponement of the nationals because of Covid-19, it was more than offset by higher product sales ($50,612) and other operating income ($56,408). Spending decreased by 29%.

Jumping finished the year with a surplus of $128,881, compared with a $2931 surplus the previous year. Income showed a decrease of 3.6% overall, mainly because of a significant fall in grants, but its levy income remained solid, and sponsorship and interest income rose. It reduced spending, which helped deliver the result. There were reductions in accommodation, meals and travel costs, competition expenses, and other expenditure that in 2019 included the contribution towards the World Equestrian Games.

The National Equestrian Centre in Christchurch incurred a deficit of $45,901 for the current year, following a deficit of $26,904 in 2019.

The National Equestrian Centre in Taupo showed a surplus of $142,732 – a 64% decrease on the previous year. It had been hit hard by cancellations arising from Covid-19 restrictions.

Kirkpatrick and Clark say ESNZ is looking at external funding opportunities, in particular, the sporting sector’s $265 million Covid-19 recovery package to be distributed through three funds over the next four years.

The pair said the landscape is, and will remain, uncertain.

“It is important we embrace change, continue to be inventive and nimble in the delivery of our sport so we can ride the waves of uncertainty instead of being overpowered by them.

“Increasingly, there are issues that are not generated from within ESNZ or not from within equestrian sport in New Zealand.

“Some of these changes are determined by the FEI in relation to, not only how we play the sport but also, horse welfare.

“Other changes are influenced by sport governance and management in New Zealand such as gender balance and encouraging participation across a range of sports for teenagers.

ESNZ’s “vital statistics” reveal that 87% percent of its members are female. Among its 620 officials, 466 are women and 154 are men. Its board is 60% female.

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