I hope you are all like myself relaxing at home after a long but good year! Last weekend I competed in London Olympia which was as usual a top class show, well run with a full house packed each day into the grand hall. The spectators are what make the show happen. They come year after year, creating a unique atmosphere which encourages the riders to try harder.
There are so many 5 star shows now with top money, run over just a few days that the riders are becoming accustomed to it, in some cases forgetting about tradition and how they got to where they are. It really bugs me to hear constant whinging from some riders who cannot see further than the end of their own noses!
I can see both sides of the argument. Shows like Dublin and Olympia, while very different, are both traditional sporting events in Ireland and the UK. Nostalgia alone will not attract the world’s best riders but I think it would be a great shame if the sport became about two day shows with bland arenas over the same type of fences, albeit jumping for big prize money while performing to a handful of spectators.
There is no doubt that the sport has developed hugely in the last few years and obviously the traditional shows need to keep up somewhat with the amount of world ranking classes on offer, and keep the prize pots big enough to ensure that they are in line with other shows. But having said that there is a certain onus on the riders to think laterally and not just have tunnel vision!
I personally would like to see much more TV coverage live from our top shows (whatever the cost) as this creates interest at grassroots level which will undoubtedly filter through the whole industry, the same way it captures the imagination of the young child who becomes fascinated by the sport on a visit to Dublin or Olympia. When the riders climb the long ladder up the world rankings they somehow tend to lose a sense of realism. After all, it’s called SHOWjumping and competing for huge money in front of empty seats may not be sustainable forever where the traditional shows have proven that they can and will survive the test of time. In addition an increase in TV coverage attracts sponsors, develops new owners into the sport and gives riders the opportunity to become sports stars themselves. This will be another way to increase their revenue stream and develop their businesses which will last far longer than their riding career. If it were not for the traditional shows many of us would never have gotten the breaks we got, but eaten bread is soon forgotten!!
Hope you all have a good Christmas and wishing you every happiness for 2014.