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Hickstead Highlights Lack Of Financial Support

New ground improvements brought forward to answer criticisms

Hickstead has brought forward planned improvements to the All England Jumping Course to answer FEI criticisms after last year's Samsung Super League Nations Cup competition.

"Apart from work on the all-weather surface in the warm-up area, everything now being done had been on our development plan," said director Edward Bunn. "Like everything, improvements need financing and we walk the same narrow line as everyone else."

And he adds: "But it does highlight a particular problem faced by Hickstead. For 43 years, the upkeep and facilities on the show ground have been financed by my father and it does beg the question of why a venue classified as one of the best in the world and certainly the best in this country has to be financed solely out of Bunn family resources.

"In most other countries there would be government aid or some financial help from the national federation, but although the BEF is looking into this, we have no idea what the future holds. In the past there has been help from Lottery funding for the 1999 European Championships and a decade ago financing for safety improvements following the Bradford disaster.

Financing influenced the decision to limit the Hickstead programme to two major shows a year and it is only this year that sponsorship from national audio specialist Alpine has been agreed for the National Schools and Pony Club Championships, financed for nearly 30 years out of the Bunn pocket.

"It has been suggested that if my father had not opened Hickstead and filled the arena with challenging permanent obstacles, ploughed money into it over the years and devised competitions to attract international riders, British showjumping would not have been able to dominate the world in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and certainly would not be hosting Samsung Super League Nations Cup competitions today."

Now Douglas Bunn, who opened the All England Jumping Course in 1960 and has hosted eight European and two world championships, is again investing in improvements to take the show ground into the next decade.

The International Arena, acclaimed worldwide for its footing, is to receive top dressings of a special sand and continued treatment by a machine purchased to improve drainage before the European Championships in 1999.

A new international stabling area, designed to provide the maximum security demanded by today's international standards, is to be built on a 10-acre site purchased recently specifically for this purpose. This will house all nternational horses, while animals brought in by foreign riders to compete in lesser classes will be stabled in a new adjacent block. Both will be serviced by a new access road.

The entrance "funnel" to the International Arena is to receive a sand dressing to help reduce muddy conditions in bad weather and long-term consideration is to be given to an all-weather surface. Visual considerations for the all-weather international warm-up area and a planned new warm-up area near ring two will go ahead if adequate financing can be arranged.

A much-needed and planned improvement to the press facilities will meet the modern demands of improved technology, and new sponsor and timing specialist Longines has agreed to provide an "instant" computerised results service for international classes.

Criticisms of show ground access are being met by a new entrance to service traffic from the South and will ease congestion at peak times.

"Other improvements have been discussed and these will receive ongoing consideration as finances allow," said Edward."


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