No more SJI at the NSC

News broke yesterday that the National Sports Arena will not be hosting any SJI shows next year due to complaints from private equestrian centres. Personally, I think this is a huge loss for riders and I kind of feel annoyed that certain venues can dictate who and where can hold shows. The NSC is in a lovely and central location, especially for those travelling from Kildare, Meath or South Dublin, as it effectively cuts an hour off their journey compared to the other SJI shows held in the Dublin-Meath area.

While I understand that the NSC was originally created as a place for the elite and top level riders to train, rather than as a competition venue, it is paid for and is maintained using taxpayers money, so isn't it fair that they allow the average person to use it and not just keep it for the elite? There are very few suitable showjumping and dressage venues, and the NSC was and is a welcome addition for many people. To date, only future SJI competitions have been affected, but I wonder will Dressage Ireland be forced to withdraw from there too?

The decision, it seems, came about from older and private venues feeling that it was taking away revenue from their businesses. But, perhaps, instead of complaining and getting another venue to stop holding shows, question why are people willing to travel further afield, rather than support local shows. There are venues in my region that regularly hold shows, but, some are poorly supported as many people don't feel that they get good service or value for money. One venue, in particular, holds quite a few shows, and they are fairly expensive to enter, granted the surfaces are great, but the prizes are shocking. I spent nearly €25 on a showing entry, only to be judged by someone who is not an approved judge, but rather is a local rider, to then get a small, one tier cheapy rosette and medal for first place. I honestly felt so let down and disappointed. The only time an actual prize is awarded is if you are champion or reserve champion or at the end of a long league. On another occasion, when they held a working hunter show and had no prizes at all! Not even a voucher for a free entry at future shows - NOTHING! At the very least, they could have offered the rider their entry fee back and apologised profusely for the oversight and promise it wouldn't happen. Similarly, at another venue, my friend won her showjumping class and was given a kids sized sharing packet of jellies.  It's no wonder that people don't go back.

Complaining and preventing other venues from holding shows doesn't mean that people will come flocking back either. I've seen venues and showgrounds in my area hold specific shows for years and who carved out a niche for themselves, having to totally redefine and adapt as people's interests change. Showjumping yards have become known for working hunter and showing and hunt yards develop and transform as people branch out into eventing. Every business has to be adaptable and embrace change. If another business is taking people away from your shows then perhaps you need to offer them something different and stand out. 

My experience of the NSC has been nothing but positive

There are plenty of riders out there and new equestrian centres and riding clubs are popping up every year. The demand is there for new competition venues, people enjoy and embrace variety and those venues that do well seem to listen to their customers and try new things. What worked for you and brought in a huge income 3 years ago won't necessarily do the same in today's environment. There is a new equestrian centre after opening in South Dublin that is hoping to hold both amateur and national level shows, with the possibility of having a top class eventing course in the future. This just proves that there is room for new venues and everyone has a place in the market. If the support and client base are there, then one must ask themselves why riders are not supporting particular shows.

To argue that two competition venues within a small proximately leads to a lack of riders just isn't true. And this is clearly demonstrated by Peakroe and Duffys Equestrian Centre in Galway. These two venues are 15 minutes (12.2km) of each other and yet both run SJI very successfully. They run back to back, with one show on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. If these shows can manage to do it, then why shouldn't the same apply in Dublin, where we have an even greater number of riders?

I really cannot understand the decision behind this. Just because a few established venues feel threatened, they complained about the NSC. The NSC has such limited facilities (one sand and one grass arena and no lights) that it probably should never have really gotten as successful or so well liked and supported as it did. Other venues have lights and better parking and their surfaces and showjumps are on par with the NSC (sometimes even better!) - so why are people still choosing to go to the NSC?

Perhaps riders should have been consulted before this decision was made? I really feel this decision was made without the riders best interests being taken into account. Or maybe the other venues could ask the riders why they feel the NSC is a superior venue? If the NSC is able to offer shows at a cheaper price then perhaps this is something that SJI need to look at and introduce a flat entry fee across the country, with the excess either going into training funds or subsidising the more expensive venues. There is definitely more to this than riders choosing to go there because it's slightly cheaper. 

Everyone should have the option and choice to choose which venue to compete at, and I feel this is a bad and almost controlling move done on behalf of certain venues. Instead of getting up in arms about other venues taking away business, maybe it's time that they step back and take a critical look at their own. 

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