Too many cooks?

By: Horse Deals

Too many cooks?
Is a 22-person board too unwieldy and stopping decisions being made?

Following the recent British Showjumping executive board elections, Robert Smith isn’t
convinced change
is on its way yet. . .

So the make-up of the new board has been confirmed for 2010. But I can’t say I’m getting too overexcited that it might be the start of better times for British Showjumping, as the BSJA is now called.

In my opinion, the sport has suffered as a result of the board having too many people feathering their own nest and trying to get something out of their position — either promoting their products and business or selling horses — and that’s not ideal.

My father, Harvey, has been elected onto the national board. We’ll have to see how that works out, but I imagine it will be like a breath of fresh air. He’s not exactly your typical committee-type person, so, for me, the jury’s still out about how much he’ll be able to influence decisions, especially on a committee of 22 people!

Still, I imagine he will shake it up a bit and rattle a few cages, but how much difference it’ll make in the long term, who knows!

I don’t know why Harvey decided to get involved again in the sport, although I know he still has a genuine interest in it and has a close association with Di Cornish. She used to work for his sponsors, Brook Street Bureau, so she probably knew he was keen to help if he could.

Many of those on the board have been there a long time, some for as many as 30 years, so I can see how they became a bit insular and kidded themselves hey were doing the right thing when in fact they were just looking after themselves, which isn’t right.

This kind of mentality from a governing body suffocates any new blood with fresh ideas, so you end up with apathy from members, opening the doors to those who canvas hard to get back in.
The organisation has about 16,000 members?? but only around 1,500 could be bothered to vote in the election, which says a lot! I know how they feel. I’m really not interested either now. I feel worn down by it all, to be honest, because there’s been too much nonsense talked for too long. I try not to think about it because it’s not worth losing sleep over.

The whole expenses row boiled up, then was analysed and scrutinised over and over again, but was neatly dealt with by Di Cornish at the AGM, which I was glad I attended.
Di talked a lot of sense. She explained the whole subject of payments and it made a lot of sense, so full marks to her. Of course you’re always going to get those who backbite and make an issue of it. There were those who refused to accept the explanations about the role and payments of board members and wanted to throw in personal digs, rather than just putting it behind us and getting on with improving the sport.

As I’ve said before, there’s too much infighting and people seem to want to make a real meal of everything, which is so unnecessary.

The mood at the meeting was quite hostile, with a lot of very direct questions asked, but holding the committee to account and being direct is the only way forward. In fact, I think we should have more opportunities to do this and that British Showjumping would be seen as more transparent if this happened.

I can’t see how things are going to change in the foreseeable future because having 22 people on the executive committee is ridiculous. There are too many ego trips and those who want the job because there’s something in it for them.
But asking them to reduce the number would be like asking a turkey to vote for Christmas!

You might think I’m climbing back on my soapbox, but I’ll say it again — our sport just isn’t what it used to be. We’ve fallen from being a premier sport like golf or football and climbing back is going to be hard.

People think characters like Harvey made show jumping in those days, but all that happened was that he had a platform because the sport was already huge. Anyone who was a bit different shot into the spotlight, which then promoted show jumping.

Since then, we’ve just kept sliding down almost into oblivion and until someone can get hold of the sport and give it a shake from top to bottom, it’s going to stay stagnant.

Harvey might be good at coming out and saying what he thinks, but if he’s one lone voice it’s not going to make that much difference. You need a majority to see real change.

Will the day come when I become a committee man myself? Well, the funny thing is that I actually went to stand last year, but because of a Bank Holiday, my application was received one day late and I was informed that two members would object if it went any further. Unbelievable!

I didn’t let it get to me, I just withdrew my application because it wasn’t worth the hassle it would have caused and confirmed what I already knew — they’re a scheming bunch. But don’t worry, I’ll be applying to stand again, so I won’t go away that easily!

As chairman of the riders’ committee, I’ve seen the politics first hand — it’s amazing to see people squirm when the truth comes out and it’s actually quite funny to see them try and wiggle out of things!

As you know by now, I’m not someone who keeps my head down and walks away from something I don’t agree with, so I’ll just keep on saying what needs to be said!

About Robert Smith

Yorkshireman Robert Smith’s career has spanned more than three decades. He has jumped on Nations Cup teams on more than 80 occasions and represented Britain as an individual in the Athens 2004 Olympics, where he finished fourth.
In 2006, he was a judge for the BBC’s Only Fools on Horses reality programme for Sport Relief. A father of four, he is based at Brook Furlong Farm in Shrewley, Warwickshire, with his partner Shelley Redbart, where he has 20 to 25 horses in training.

His latest venture is an online training initiative on