For 20 years, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** (England) has run on the first Thursday to Sunday in May. But starting in 2010, organizers opted for an occasional April start date so the event could finish on a Monday, partly in response to the broadcasting preferences of BBC TV.
The rescheduling initially caused some disquiet in the FEI calendar because of its possible impact on the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, which usually runs the last weekend in April. But the decision to alter the Badminton dates may have to be revisited if a U.K. government proposal to abandon the Mayday public holiday goes ahead.
The holiday move—designed to extend the tourism season with alternative holidays in either April or October—could take effect as early as 2013, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
A DCMS spokesman said: “The government doesn’t have a preferred position. We want to hear from everyone with a view. Any changes would be unlikely to take place before 2013, as there is already an extra bank holiday this year for the Royal wedding and an extra one next year for the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.”
A spokesman for Badminton said they had not yet decided how to respond to DCMS, though the fallback could be to take advantage of any new spring holiday and shunt Badminton even further forward to mid April—back where it started in 1949.
Meanwhile, fears that spectators would not adapt to last year’s change proved unfounded, but the 2011 Easter clash has been less well received. It has been complicated by the national holiday on April 29 marking the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Many workers quickly twigged they need only take three days vacation between this and Easter to create a 10-day break, so many miss Badminton completely.
Badminton ticket sales were slightly down compared with 2010, and some longstanding trade exhibitors have cancelled, due to the prohibitive cost of paying staff and contractors “overtime” to work at Easter.
For competitors, an early Badminton means only one realistic chance to jump an advanced track beforehand, at Belton Park (April 1-3), where Mark Phillips takes over as course designer this year.
Local hoteliers are also unhappy. Larger venues have lost out on bookings because they host wedding parties over Easter, while many bed and breakfasts will not see their regular Badminton visitors. Judy McCavana, owner of The Old King William hostelry, said: "Bookings and enquiries are down. One regular group isn’t coming due to Easter. They have seen Badminton as a ‘girly’ weekend away without the children. It is horrendous scheduling."