an interview with Chris Hector
At the Melbourne International Three Day event, I caught up with the new – just five weeks in the job – CEO of Equestrian Victoria, Fiona Baxter.
History hasn’t been very kind to EA CEOs…
“Hopefully we can turn that around. I know the lead line is that EV is the peak body for equestrian sport in Victoria, and my vision is to have EV really step up and be that peak body, representing all equestrian sports in Victoria, whether that be elite eventing here at Werribee, or Pony Club, or just the fun riders, I think we’ve got a role to play in representing all equestrian sport to government – and to work together to really leverage some opportunities around animal welfare, and just to grow the sport. We need to promote the awareness of equestrian sport.”
“I’m personally really passionate about what our sport can offer to kids, and girls in particular – equestrian is a really healthy hobby that really develops them as individuals. So that’s my vision, to really step up and be that peak body for equestrian sports.”
I am sure you are well aware that out there in the mindless space of the web forums, there are continual complaints that ‘their’ money is being spent on elite athletes, and not on people competing at the lowest levels, just like them…
“I think that it is really important that we do service our members right from the grass roots level, and I think what we can do is provide those pathways from the grassroots, and develop horses and riders right through to those who want to do the elite level. But not everybody wants to compete at that elite level, so we need to be fostering partnerships from all sorts of different paths, whether it be from the elite level, or continuing on in your pleasure riding, or low level competition. I think we’ve got a role to play in fostering all those pathways.”
What if the EA federal got back to what it was set up to do – assisting our teams to compete in international competition, and left all the other stuff, to the State Branches… Would that not be a more logical distribution of labor, instead of all the current overlaps?
“I think we are pretty much on the way there towards that division. I think what EA Federal is good at doing, is providing those high level things such as insurance, rules and regulations, so that we’ve got consistency around Australia – so we can have Australia-wide competition. So there are several things that are handy to leverage at the national level, as well as their role in administering the sports funding to the elite and that pathway to the Olympics.”
“I think that what we can do as states, is really focus a lot of our energy on the grassroots and participation, and the local level competition that for some can lead through to that national level, but really we need to continue servicing our members here in Victoria as well.”
The other widespread complaint is about the lack of EA transparency at all levels, particularly the lack of transparency about how funds are spent… Do you intend doing anything about that?
“Absolutely. I come from a corporate governance and corporate sustainability background, and transparency is definitely one of my big focuses, to make sure our sport is properly governed and that our members know where their funds are going and they can understand how those funds are benefitting back to them, and to the sport. That’s definitely a big focus area of mine.”
You seem to be one of a small minority of our equestrian officials, in that you actually ride a horse…
“I do… but at a very low level. I’ve got a new little Welsh Cob that I am working up, hopefully so my kids can ride in a few years time. They are still on the Shetlands at the moment, competing at Pony Club. For me, my riding is my escape, my down time, it re-energizes me to do my job in the week.”