Now we’d all love to see more eventing on TV and Paul Tapner’s recent win at Badminton Horse Trials reminded me of something I heard from a top TV exec recently, ‘its very hard to get Eventing any airtime as it’s seen as elitist”.
So is it? [Elitist]. Well, it does have a ‘Royal’ at the top of the sport, but Zara Phillips has to be one of the most down to earth royals around, so I’m tempted to answer ‘no’.
The international ‘multi-cultural’ flavour of the sport in this country would also suggest “no”. We have a multitude of foreign riders base here who you just wouldn’t consider to be Elitist or vaguely aloof. The Aussie’s and Kiwi’s, most of whom are based here, brighten up the scene, you so often see them on screen, whether it’s Clayton Fredericks on Horse & Country TV or the legendary Mark Todd doing video diaries, not to mention the lively debate and banter that say Matt Ryan & Andrew Nicholson generate, and there’s the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Swedish to name but a few other nations we have based here for the sport.
So to recap, we have a down to earth royal, a multi-cultrual scene, and some colourful characters. I think part of the problem is of our own making; the multitude of obscure pet names that many female British riders seem to have, the “So & So went to Eton & Oxford” statements you often see banded about, and as Andrew Nicholson might say the sport here in the UK is run by the old boy network.
Considering the medal successes the British Eventing Team enjoy I’ve always been surprised at how little we see them in the main stream media, compared to say our olympic rowers, cyclists, or track athletes.
So is the sport elitist? Overall I think not, but I do think the foreign riders seem more approachable and down to earth over all (not to be taken as a sweeping general statement). So perhaps the Brits should work on a few media strategies. There are of course a number of other factors that make it appear elitist, like costs. Eventing is an expensive sport to emulate your heroes compared to say football or snooker.
Changing perceptions is possibly a tougher challenge than first impressions might lead you to believe!