Starters up as British dressage makes Covid lockdown comeback

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Despite some financial pain, British Dressage (BD) appears to be bouncing back following Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, with more starters during August and September this year than at the same time last year.

The organisation’s CEO, Jason Brautigam, described the 22,800 dressage starts in the past two months as “a fantastic result in the circumstances”.

Before that, BD’s lost income from starter levies between March to July reached the six-figure mark, and the organisation was down about a thousand full members on the same time as last year.

Revenue generated from membership, competitions and sponsorship has been hit hard and BD was forecasting a deficit of about £275,000 in year-end figures. “This is a far better figure than the £1.1 million projected loss that we were faced with back at the start of the crisis in March, but it will still hit our reserves this year and next,” Brautigam said in his third-quarter report to members.

“However, this experience has certainly highlighted why it was so important to build up those reserves in the first place – and that has put us in a stronger position than some other sporting organisations.”

He said uncertainty continued to hamper progress, with travel restrictions in Scotland and Wales proving to be particularly frustrating for members in those nations, but at least organised training and competition activity has been permitted to continue for now.

Brautigam said there had been 554 fixtures scheduled for September, October and November — only a few less than last year’s 577. “To be back to 96% of our normal competition levels is quite astounding, given the continued challenges, so I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped us build back to these levels in a relatively short space of time.”

During the lockdown, he said judges had embraced video conferencing as an online learning tool. “From June to September we normally have around 650 participants in judge training, but this year the total numbers are nearer 950, up by almost 50%.”

Brautigam said the organisation was “cautiously optimistic about the future”, but the long-term effects of the pandemic would be felt for a long while to come.

“We are certainly not out of the woods yet. We took swift and decisive action when the crisis hit to mitigate the financial impact, by identifying cost savings, furloughing staff and reducing our operational overheads, which has helped to limit our losses for the current year.”

BD’s AGM on October 20 is being hosted virtually and members will be able to watch on the BD website.

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