Most Canadian competitors are now used to seeing the extra “Levy” charge on their show bills. Ranging from $10 to $20, levies are collected from each entry at a horse show and are used by the respective disciplines to fund specific initiatives such as hosting clinics, travel assistance, scholarships, venue development, and more. The program has been a huge success and has raised millions of dollars for the disciplines which are otherwise challenged to find enough money to develop programs and support athletes.
The concept was introduced about 20 years ago by Jump Canada (now the Jump Committee). Chair at the time, Mark Samuel, along with Terrance Millar and Craig Collins, promoted the idea to competition organizers.
“We were all on the Jump Canada finance committee whose responsibility it was to review expenses and to produce annual budgets for review by the JC Board,” commented Samuel, who is now the vice-president of the FEI. “We felt that it was not fiscally responsible for us to have the organization so overly-reliant on government funding in our annual budgets at the time and we lamented that there was no seed financing available for a rainy day at the High Performance level, [eg. for sending a spare to major games, etc.]. We also felt that there was no money to cultivate programs such as competition development, youth bursaries, young horse development, Hunter Classic series etc, etc. The hope was that the levy would allow a sense of financial independence, fiscal prudence and the breathing room to plan for a better tomorrow for our discipline.”
Seeing the success of the Jump program, Eventing and then Dressage introduced their own levies shortly after. The programs have been a huge boon for the disciplines with the money raised set aside into “Restricted Funds” that only the disciplines could access, and totally separate from EC’s general revenues. Just last year, the Dressage levy netted $51,320, while Eventing collected about $94,000 and Jumping around $520,000. What’s more, according to EC’s 2018 financial statement (the last year they reported on the balance of the restricted funds) the Jump Committee had amassed a $1.2 million war chest over the years, while the total restricted fund balance across all disciplines and the Drug Fee totalled $2.1 million. While these are substantial figures, the disciplines argue that they need to keep money in the bank so that they can be assured that they can deliver programs over the long-term as well as to help fund high performance athletes through each Olympic cycle.
EC changed its accounting practice in 2019, however, and stopped tracking restricted funds. In that year’s Annual Report they noted that the funds had not previously been recorded accurately, though they didn’t provide details on what was incorrect or the corrected amounts. The disciplines have been waiting ever since to find out what those corrected balances might be.
At the same time, EC has had some serious financial issues. The problems really started in 2015 when former CEO Eva Havaris spent wantonly on a new website and EC branding, among other things, creating a loss of $457,000 in her first year. Her early departure in 2017 likely also cost EC a significant sum of money, as would have the early departure of the next CEO, Richard Mongeau, in 2019. Add to that the continued decline of membership revenue and sport license fees and you understand why EC has lost over $795,000 in the last five years.
This financial crisis has caused EC to look for other sources of money, and the large Restricted Funds reserve could be their answer. In fact, EC is in the midst of introducing their new reserve fund policy to the board who are expected to vote on it in January. How they will divvy up those funds is a contentious topic. Some feel that the money should be used to help jump-start the poorer sports, while others feel that the money should stay with the sport that raised it in the first place. Regardless of which option is chosen, it’s likely that EC will skim some off the top to account for their own shortfalls.
The backlash from disciplines, however, will not be pleasant, and with good reason. While they were being financially responsible and saving funds for programs and high performance athletes, EC’s executives and board were not. They chose to spend money they didn’t have and now the disciplines are going to be forced to make up the difference, to the detriment of their athletes.
In the last year, discipline members have complained bitterly that EC executives have frozen them out of all conversation about their sports, and now, to add insult to injury, they are going to be required to give up their savings. Being of assistance and donating to a worthy cause feels good when you think that your efforts are appreciated. EC, however, has not heeded the message from the disciplines that they don’t feel respected or included, so this latest demand will only add to the tensions.
- $20/horse at Platinum and Gold shows
- 50% goes to high performance, 40% goes back to the provincial hunter/jumper associations, and 10% goes towards hunter/jumper programs. Any funds leftover are put into the reserve fund for special initiatives.
- $10 per horse at all EC sanctioned shows
- Revenue generated from the Levy is used to support talent identification, personal development and the high performance teams representing Canada at major games.
- Starter Levy is $15
- The revenue generated by the starter levy is a critical revenue source used to fund national and high performance programs within the annual eventing operating plan and budget. Programs supported include but are not limited to risk management programs such as the Eventing Safety Initiatives Grant Program; programs identified in the Eventing Development Fund Program; and athlete development and high performance programs.