Paul Biancardi Resigns - A great loss to us all!

Paul Biancardi resigns from the Board - Friday, 19 April 2013

Equestrian Australia (EA) today confirmed that Paul Biancardi has resigned from the EA Board on 16th April 2013.

EA Chairman Dr. Warwick Vale said it was regretful that Mr Biancardi has stepped down and on behalf of the Board he thanked him for his service as Chairman and Director. 

Equestrian Australia will look to fill this role in the coming month.

The above news was announced last Friday and is the culmination of a troublesome few weeks in the EA Board room.  Unrest was reported a month ago and a Board spill was predicted.  On the 8th April we were told that Paul Biancardi had stepped down as the Chairman with the Vice-Chair Warwick Vale moving up to the top job and IT expert, Nick Crowe becoming the Vice-Chair. Paul Biancardi was to staying on as a Director.

We were also told that NSW Board representative Liza Carver had resigned.  Two days later this news was overturned as apparently the correct protocols for resignation were not adhered to and high profile lawyer Ms Carver had not resigned after all.  I can only imagine what the "flies on the wall" witnessed.   It is clear that announcements of resignations need to be referred to the constitution to ensure that the process meets the requirements of EA's own rules (not to mention good manners and respect for the time and effort given on a voluntary basis!)

It must be acknowledged that the Board appointed late in 2012, has worked through the most difficult of times and Paul Biancardi has applied his expertise and knowledge of monetary and financial matters, to put in place some on-going and workable strategies to  help EA out of the worst phase of financial mismanagement in history.  I personally thank the Board and Mr Biancardi for their time and interest.  Perhaps his failing was supporting the CEO who has come under a great deal of scrutiny and criticism as a professional sports manager.  As the person in charge, he should have ensured that his procedures and due diligence avoided the long list of well documented problems that have arisen in his reign.

Referring to the Constitution does not seem to be something that the management do ... and perhaps this realisation makes it appropriate to point out that members in all states had the chance to ensure that the Constitution which governs their State is a set of rules that gives them a say and reflects the purpose of the organisation - member support and services!

As most of us know, Equestrian Australia has 7 shareholders - each of the states.  The governance of the National office comes under the control of the States, however, there seems to be a widespread misunderstanding that EA works like a corporate Head Office structure with the national office taking charge and making all of the important decisions.  The management style of the CEO and the large number of commercial experts on the EA staff confirm the grandiose projects and undertakings are far removed from member services and with plenty of evidence that the tail is wagging the dog.

Many believe that our governance documentations (Constitutions for EA and all of the States) are cumbersome and unworkable  and for those who have followed the enlightened and revealing  articles by Naughty Horse (on the Cyberhorse Forum), will see that the states need to step up if anything is to change.  The way it stands, we Members have NO rights.

In Victoria, long term member (probably soon to be ex) Sue Innes worked tirelessly to identify where our power had gone and re-jigged the constitution to ensure that EV is a member driven body of like minded people who had some say in the way their sport is managed.

At the EV AGM in December, 2012, Sue's painstakingly and thoroughly prepared proposed changes to the Victorian Constitution were smugly thrown out, almost in their entirety.  I know that many members just glazed over and "hoped" that things would improve, but they had not taken enough interest to read Sue's motions and form an enlightened opinion.  It was really disappointing to hear the Chairman say at the end of this meeting, "Many of Sue's changes were very good, and we are considering these ourselves, if she had have worded them differently we would have passed them!"

In 2011 Jack Woodhead threw out Sue's suggestions stating that she had not complied with the time requirements of the AGM. In 2012, the Victorian Board were aware that the Constitution was on the radar.  Sue had discussed her ideas on many occasions over the preceding 12 months and there was a great deal of opportunity for the CEO, the Chairman or another member of the Board to work with Sue to word the changes in a way that made them mutually acceptable. 

Gestures to member satisfaction may have helped to slow the rapid decline in the perceived relevance of EA (and the State Branches) and it is noted that the numbers have gone from 26,000 Australia wide some years back to around 15,000 with many States coming to the end of a period at the end of June we may see a further decline.  I have seen nothing that would make the ex-members come back and I hear people saying that they are not going to renew as the organisation offers them nothing.

This is NOT what I hoped for an organisation that I have worked very hard to improve and support. I believe that had my concerns  been taken to heart and the warnings heeded, the outcome may have been very different.  

Surely, the States need people who care enough to make a stand to stay involved and yet they drive them away with mismanagement, rude and unfair governance and a lack of respect - the Dressage Judges' list is a case that proves my point. 

EV has lost out to the HRCAV movement where people have fun and enjoy the friendship and camaraderie that makes for a cohesive membership who work together.

I hope that any remedial actions will not be too little, too late. Certainly it is a difficult time for EA and the States and the problems will only be turned around by humility and care.

Comment by Berni Saunders


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