“Safety is a big one,” says Darren, acknowledging that it’s been a pressing issue for a while, especially following the 2019 coroner’s report relating to the tragic eventing deaths of Olivia Inglis and Caitlyn Fischer in 2016.
Coming from a sport such as athletics to one where a large animal is involved certainly means there are some different safety aspects to consider, however as Darren explains it all comes back to working within risk framework. “It’s really looking at the risk, and looking at how you work within a risk framework; understanding what the risks are, what the potential issues are, what the likelihood of that is, and then putting things in place to do it.
“We’ve got to do as much as we possibly can to minimise and mitigate the risks, and if safety concerns do occur, we need to be able to respond to them very quickly and ensure that safety comes first and foremost,” continues Darren, explaining that EA now has a strong, detailed strategy around safety that was developed prior to his arrival as CEO and is now in the final stages of being refined. “This strategy has been built out over the last few weeks, and I’m really confident with the plan that we’ve got in place to implement it.
“Already, a fair bit of work has been done. We’ve employed a National Safety Manager, Meredith Chapman; we’ve just had her contract extended for the next two years, with government funding to help support that. So now, it’s really backing Meredith and ensuring that she’s got the support.”
With that in mind, Darren explains that EA is about to establish a National Safety Committee. “We’ve just taken expressions of interest for that. They’ll also help to oversee, so we’re going to have six to eight committee members who are pretty experienced in eventing, and then equestrian generally, and in safety risk mitigation. The committee will work closely with the National Safety Manager, as well as the board and myself. We’ve got the right people in the room.”
Darren feels that getting all the correct safety protocol in place as quickly as possible is important. “Having a plan and working quickly to implement it is key. We’ve put some really rigorous KPIs around a lot of the safety aspects that we have. You will see some changes to how the sport is run and what happens at events; there’s always going to be some issues that are going to come up from that, and how we respond to them is of the utmost importance.”
From an educational point of view, Darren explains that there’s still work to be done with certain stakeholders, such as organising committees, to ensure that everyone’s aware of the changes and on the same page.