During the past months the original team behind ‘The Belfast International Horse Show’ along with a new consortium of backers and supporters have been working away behind the scenes to bring a resolution to the problems the event has suffered over the past few years.
With a new team of investors and a fresh NEW company and show format, it was attempted back in October 2005 to secure dates for a 5 Star show in Nov/Dec 2006 from the Equestrian Federation of Ireland whilst making full settlement of any outstanding issues remaining from the 2004 show.
This offer was rejected in an e-mail from Mr Dan Butler on the grounds that ‘evidence that all existing debts pertaining to the previous show are cleared to the confirmed satisfaction of the Creditors beofre any consideration would be made’. The new investors, not being involved with the previous company in 2004 and not responsible in any way for any matters remaining unresolved were understandably unwilling to pay this money out in advance with no firm commitment of even being considered for a new event.
Again in March 2006 another similar attempt was made to secure dates for a 5 Star show now in Nov/Dec 2007 from the Equestrian Federation of Ireland. Detailed terms were put in place within the offer stating that the new Organising Committee agreed any sanction would only be ‘Provisional’ and would not become active until all terms and conditions were met in full to the satisfaction of the SJAI/EFI. These terms were ‘Full settlement of any matters outstanding from the 2004 BIHS within a timeframe set by SJAI/EFI.
Once again this was rejected in an e-mail from Mr Dan Butler on the grounds that ‘Until the last show debts are closed there will be no consideration of a future show’.
Last week a final attempt was made and we called upon the EFI once again and made one final plea to bring closure to the issues from 2004 whilst bringing to the Irish Calendar a NEW fabulous 5 Star event. I regret today (12th June) once again this plea has been rejected and our new investors are not prepared to take the risk of making a payment in advance and being turned down for our already well-planned 2007 show.
Making this situation more painful for us it has now been brought to our attention that a new show has indeed been able to walk in without any settlement made and has been welcomed and sanctioned by the EFI for a 3 Star show in Odyssey Arena in October 2006. Among the organising committee we find someone who played a huge part in our show’s difficulties in 2003 and is playing a major role in this new event and has now himself been awarded this sanction while sitting on the SJAI (UR)/Executive Board and past EFI Executive member, whilst his colleague is a past president of the EFI, which it is felt by many is a clear conflict of interest. A letter of complaint has been passed to the SJAI/EFI/FEI and Irish Sports Council regarding all of the above matters.
We went into the promotion of The Belfast International Horse Show in 2003 with vision, a huge drive and determination to make it work and belief that the industry would support us and our investment. The event came across nothing but scepticism and a hugely damaging campaign was waged against the show, with our secured show director at that time being contacted, our venue, funding agencies,
sponsors and many others.
But both the 2003 & 2004 events were a resounding success on the World Stage despite this fact, firmly securing the show a place on the World Sporting Calendar and Belfast International Horse Show was looking forward to it’s third successive run at Odyssey Arena but whilst BIHS should have been justifiably proud of their achievements against all the odds, the 2003 show, notably a success for Irish Show Jumping made a significant loss in £650,000Stg which the backers met in full despite any promises of government funding materialising, and BIHS and it’s senior management proved their full commitment to both the event and to the sport.
A change in contract management/directorship for the 2004 show was implemented and BIHS made a massive and quite remarkable turnaround coming in £300,000 under budget with massive increases in ticket sales and sponsorship and the show now basked in the glory of being voted ‘Best Global Show 2004’ while receiving a glowing report from the FEI representative present at the show stating, ‘The Belfast International Horse Show 2004 was “perfect” organized!!. The riders, grooms, sponsors, spectators and officials, they all were very positive in their judgement about this show. There were no problems what’s so ever and the atmosphere was “G R E A T”. This show (and for sure this O.C.) has (with out any doubt from my side) the potential to organize a World Cup qualifier in the near future.’
A letter to the OC from renowned rider Marcus Fuchs stated, ‘It is with obvious pleasure and delight that I write this short note to thank you for your hospitality and kindness over the past few days. I can only congratulate you and your team for the great effort and professionalism with which you approach this event. Creating and establishing a new show is not an easy task, to do it at the edge of Europe is very difficult, to do it so well is admirable. I hope the event which I saw at birth will just keep growing and growing.’
In total in excess of €1 million has been invested into BIHS and the Irish Show Jumping industry, million pound investment in any sport is not easy to find but the original backers of BIHS stepped up and made the commitment and now this money is lost and the core management team were still fighting to resolve any remaining issues and bring the show back in it’s new exciting format with a clean fresh slate but any opportunity of allowing us to do so have been taken away.
‘The backers, including myself have invested in excess of €1 million into the future of this wonderful event and ultimately the Irish Show Jumping Industry. The show was my baby, I had nursed it through good and bad and we had the commitment, drive and determination plus a most wonderful team to make it a success.’
‘After a string of harsh press reports, callous character grilling, let downs and broken promises I personally had lost my drive for the event and it was affecting my health and family life. I was to find myself expecting a baby prior to the 2005 show and having already two miscarriages during my management experience of BIHS. I was unable to continue to do the job and found it hard to recover fully from the 2004 event so I took a back seat allowing a new team to take control but once again our funding was withdrawn, after being guaranteed in writing and all terms and conditions met and the 2005 event was regrettably cancelled. This left us with a regrettable shortfall situation plus cancelled show and we were all working hard to bring about a resolution.’
‘We could have given up at any time but I didn’t, we had so hoped to be able to resolve all matters and bring our wonderful 5 Star show back in it’s new format but any chance of being allowed to do this have now been taken away from us and I am devastated. I am personally being robbed of the chance to clear my name, the name of the BIHS and clear up all the outstanding issues remaining from 2004 by the EFI when full payment was there on the table for them now on
3 occasions in the past 9 months.’
‘I am heartbroken and very angry that they have rejected our offers while clearly backing their own. All I can say is that I do hope the show was enjoyed and everyone will recognise the efforts we all made as a team for the whole sport.’ said past Event Director Theresa McKenna