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The show had to go on

ALDERSHOT Show organisers were determined to persevere with this year's event, despite crippling costs, because they feared cancelling would have sounded its death knell.

Vice-president and Aldershot MP Gerald Howarth was outraged when the Ministry of Defence billed organisers £4,000 for the use of Rushmoor Arena ahead of the three-day show earlier this month.

But he said the committee felt compelled to continue with the schedule because of the problems that plagued the show in recent years.

The 2000 Aldershot Show was cancelled when heavy downpours left the arena waterlogged and last year's was postponed for several months because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Cancelling it again could have led to the death of the Aldershot Show, Mr Howarth admitted.

"If we hadn't had the show this year I think we might have lost it altogether," he said.

"The 2000 event was cancelled because the arena was waterlogged and last year's was postponed until September and we really felt that unless we stuck to the schedule this year we would risk losing it."

The problems this year arose when the MoD charged £4,000 on any profits made by the event, despite the fact that it raises vital funds for the Army Benevolent Fund.

The show raises an average of £6,000 and although this year's figures are yet to be finalised the charity is likely to be left picking up the crumbs.

Most of the huge fee could have been waived if organisers had reached an early agreement with the MoD but the shortened time period between the last two shows made this difficult.

Mr Howarth wrote to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon before the show, which began on May 4, asking him to intervene.

In his response, Mr Hoon said: "To reduce the charges any lower would lay the MoD open to accusations that we are subsidising a private organisation or individuals.

"In reaching this position, Land Command has made every effort to ensure that the event itself has not been put in jeopardy."

He said he was concerned that the MoD and the organisers had been put in a difficult position at such a late stage and asked for discussions over next year's event to start as early as possible.

He added: "These discussions will need to focus on putting the Aldershot Show on a more regular footing, which clearly has not been the case in the past."

Mr Howarth said the MoD was wrong to consider the show as merely a charity event, claiming it is really a "shop window" for the garrison in Aldershot.

"I really am extremely disappointed that the Ministry of Defence appears to be viewing the show as only another commercial activity when it always was a military show. It is only in recent years that there has been a civilian element to it.

"It's a real opportunity for the Aldershot garrison to organise a three-day festival with the show jumping community and the town."

The show organisers will now be looking to expand sponsorship deals ahead of next year's event.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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