Case of Coral Cove leaves coffers empty

The British Horse Trials Association is operating on "wafer-thin margins and negligible assets", according to Pat Thompson, treasurer of the finance committee.

The British Horse Trials Association is operating on "wafer-thin margins and negligible assets", according to Pat Thompson, treasurer of the finance committee.

Speaking at yesterday's annual conference, Thompson said that a "break-even situation" was anticipated this year, after "unforeseen and unbudgeted" costs of around £30,000 were incurred in the defence and investigation of the Coral Cove dope test case.

"Those costs would not have been incurred if the people involved had put their hands up early on," Thompson said. "Now it is time for them to say, 'Sorry we got it wrong, we'll reimburse the association'."

Few of those in the packed conference hall regarded repayment as a likely outcome. With costs of £1.5m a year, there was concern that the surplus of £32,000 made in 1997 and 1998 (the association's first two years as a limited company) left it vulnerable to be taken back under the umbrella of the British Horse Society, which could happen if it were running at a deficit.

There is, however, a sum of £192,000 raised through a members' levy and "ring fenced" for the development of the sport, which would presumably be made available in such a crisis.

Because of the new memorandum and articles of association, all 12 board members resigned yesterday. Six were then elected to the new board, among them Jane Holderness-Roddam, who has done so much to restore morale since becoming caretaker-chairman during a catastrophic year in which five riders sustained fatal injuries.

Kate Hoey, the Minister for Sport, praised the association when she addressed the meeting. "Some sports would have crumbled and gone to pieces," she said, "but this organisation was able to react to tragic circumstances in a very positive way." Hoey announced that Lucinda Green, one of the six elected to the BHTA board, had also become a full member of the Sports Council as part of the Sport England committee.

Pippa Funnell became the fitting recipient of the Tony Collings Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the leading rider on points.

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