Secrecy blamed for demise
AN ENTRENCHED culture of secrecy, competing statebased agendas and a board bogged down in bureaucracy have been blamed for Equestrian Australia’s rapid descent into the hands of administrators.
Two former Equestrian Australia board members, Gillian Canapini and Ricky Macmillan, have penned an explosive open letter alleging equestrian sport’s national governing body has been a “train wreck” that has not been responsible or accountable to members, including by calling in administrators Kordamentha before consulting its members.
“In our view, EA’S board has not functioned openly or for the benefit of members as a whole … Its decisions are often made without transparency. The latest chapter in a sequence of questionable decisions centres on who was responsible for the recent decision to place EA in administration and why was there no consultation with, or notice to members?”
Ms Macmillan, an Olympic dressage rider who was appointed EA chair in November last year with aspirations of democratising the board, resigned in April citing that change had been “unobtainable” within the current structure of the organisation. Ms Canapini resigned shortly afterwards “in utter frustration”.
“There were layers upon layers of levels of power, with no responsibility to members, poor dialogue between directors and competing agendas between the states,” Ms Canapini said.
The former lawyer said her repeated requests for information on the use of government funding while on the board were denied. “I still question why I wasn’t able to get the information,” she said.
EA’S operating model consists of 70 subcommittees. In 2018, $13.5 million was spent on administration.
Last Tuesday, EA’S four remaining board members – Peter Toft, John Glenn, Helen Hamilton-jones and Cathi Collier – engaged insolvency firm Kordamentha as voluntary administrators. The move followed a letter from Sports Australia a week earlier notifying EA that it would withhold its core funding until sound governance could be demonstrated.
“In recent times, the leadership and governance at EA has fallen well short of acceptable standards with the resignation of eight directors, including three chairs, in the past 16 months,” a Sports Australia statement said.
“We will revisit our position on these matters when EA demonstrates to our satisfaction that it has developed, and will implement, a new governance model that achieves our core requirements of being structurally democratic, representative and stable.”
EA’S board said Sports Australia’s withdrawal of about $450,000 in funding, coupled with the impact of COVID-19, placed the organisation at risk of insolvency.
Yet just 12 months ago, EA had more than $1.72 million in cash reserves and a surplus for the 2018-19 year of $141,000.
While government funding contributed 53 per cent of its revenue base that year, its most recent annual report mentions a “broad plan of action” should the government cut funding. Requests to speak to administrators for details of this plan went unanswered.
The first meeting of creditors, which include Sports Australia and EA’S 20,000 members, will be held this Friday.
WHY WAS THERE NO CONSULTATION WITH, OR NOTICE TO MEMBERS?
GILLIAN CANAPINI AND RICKY MACMILLAN
Infighting has been blamed for the downfall of equestrian sport’s national governing body.