NGB Fight Turns Into Civil War

Is the seemingly eternal conflict between the U.S. Equestrian Team and USA Equestrian finally coming to an end? We can only hope so…

So, was the U.S. Equestrian Team vs. USA Equestrian battle over National Governing Body status really a civil war, or Dysfunctional Family Feud?

USAE President Alan Balch dramatically characterized it as the former. I’m betting U.S. Olympic Hearing Committee Chairman Bill Stapleton thought it was more like the latter.

Can you imagine how odd it must have seemed to the former Olympic swimmer, now Lance Armstrong’s sports agent, to hear about all the overlapping personnel on the committees of both arguing organizations? And then he looked out into the audience and saw each group firmly on its own side of the room during this week’s hearings, like the relatives of the bride and groom at a shotgun wedding?

Come to think of it, this whole thing IS winding up like shotgun wedding, as the organizations work toward a settlement with the hearing committee’s unknown decision pointing at their backs should they fail to reach agreement.

The USET board will meet next week to discuss how the team can work in concert with USAE, the current NGB. One scenario calls for folks associated with the USET to help fill the USAE’s new High Performance ranks, while the USET remains a separate legal entity involved in fundraising. Or something like that.

The USET’s back is to the wall because of its desperate and embarrassing financial condition that would seem to have scuttled its bid to become NGB. But it remains to be seen exactly how USAE would handle the huge expenses of fielding international teams.

During the hearings in Austin, Texas, Balch did tread on dangerous ground when he discussed theoretically, in response to a question, the concept of raising the tab for USAE members. You have to wonder how popular that would be. USAE has about 80,000 members; USET 11,000 to 13,000, depending on the time of year. If international efforts were fascinating for the masses, wouldn’t the USET have lots more members?

Let’s face it, most people are more interested in their own adult amateur hunters or Saddlebred country pleasure horses than the fate of our flag in the next Nations’ Cup.

So how DO you pay the costs of international competition?

Balch said USAE will use short-term investments to cover short term needs in that field if necessary, while marketing and development plans are in place and ready to be activated.

But he stated he is a big believer in fees for service, in which breeds and disciplines should “be as self-sustaining as possible. Those interested in international top-level competition should fund their own activities to the extent practicable and reasonable,” he commented.

“I do want to say we do not intend to increase the dues,” said Balch, who then conjectured, “we could easily double our dues and raise millions of dollars with probably no diminution of membership. But there is tremendous resistance always to raising dues in an NGB.”

Balch said he thought an increase in the competition fee would be fairer, since those who show the most would pay the most.

“It’s a painless way for people to contribute to the sport on the basis of how much they compete,” he explained.

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