Now Brexit is for real, what next for horse sport?


Whether you were a ‘remainer’ or a ‘leaver’ last week doesn’t really matter anymore the fact is we voted to leave. It is just possible that either the Scottish National Party or the overall ‘remain’ majority of Westminster MPs might be able to block implementation of the referendum decision but let’s assume Brexit will happen. There are some other facts, right now there is no functioning government in this country worthy of the name and no credible opposition. The main political parties are in utter turmoil and likely to remain so for some months and none of them appear to have a proper plan in place for this eventuality, make of that what you will. We are likely to have a new Prime Minister by September and quite possibly a general election shortly after that. We may have a different party/ies in power this time next year. It is not surprising then that investors who hold British pounds and share holders who own shares in British companies have been selling them like mad which is why there has been a dramatic fall in the value of both. All of this is because of Thursday’s vote, that much is not in dispute.

What we cannot predict is how fast we can recover and what good things will come out of this. We may be able to trade more freely with the rest of the world, we may be able to have a good trading relationship with what is left of the EU without most of the rules people have been complaining about for decades, we just do not know. The question for us is what does this mean for horse sport? The good news is that the governance of the major sports has very littleGavin - cromwell-thumb-500x375-11960-thumb-500x375-12294 directly to do with the EU. The Olympic sports, show jumping, eventing dressage and Para-dressage together with many other major ones like carriage driving and reining are governed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) based in Switzerland, they operate globally by the national sports governing bodies (SGBs) like the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) in the UK answering to them. Horse racing is organised on a national level, the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) is the UK SGB for that sport but it also has quite a lot of influence internationally as the oldest racing organisation. There is no international body for horse racing that has the same function as the FEI.  There is some sports law case law that has some basis in EU law but little if any of it is in equine sports.  How limits on the free movement of persons into the UK will affect international sports competitors, owners  and trainers, veterinary personnel and yard workers of course is a very difficult question to answer yet, again it depends on our future relationship with the rest of the EU.

In terms of horse owners and competitors, leisure riders and everyone in between on that spectrum, the repercussions, at least in the short term will probably be much as they are for all sectors. During the early period of uncertainty it is reasonable to expect fewer people in the horse industry to be hiring new staff or making many major purchases. The market in horses at all but the elite level will probably slow down and people will hold off on major projects like buying a new horse box or building, say new ménages and the like. On a day to day basis if the products and services you use are from this country the price should stay much the same but if what you buy comes from overseas, even if it is just coat products or items of tack, these will probably become more expensive because the British pound is worth less now than it was this time last week by quite a margin. In terms of personal finances, which after all affects most of us in terms of owning and maintaining horses, mortgages may become more expensive if the Bank of England raises interest rates to help the economy generally, this is by no means a certain move though. If/when we do leave the EU then holidays are likely to become more expensive and travel generally for competitions etc. on the continent more costly and complicated. If the leavers are right however the long term upward motion of the economy due to being free of the EU might counteract this, watch this space.

Something dramatic and profound happened last Thursday, whether we celebrate it or regret it as individuals the motto ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was never more apt. We are British after all, that’s what we do….


About Dr Jonathan Glen Merritt

Senior Lecturer in Sports Law and Criminal Justice, and a member of the Sports Law Unit at Leicester De Montfort University School of Law, UK. PhD in Equine sports law governance, especially disciplinary structures. Also competing as an owner and rider with British Dressage. Obviously all views expressed are author's alone except where a guest author has contributed.
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