Tesco and St Hilda’s Ball Committee appear to be under some confusion over the sponsorship of the college’s ‘A Day at the Races’ themed ball.
The ball will be held on Saturday 4th May to commemorate 120 years since the college was founded. It will be sponsored by Royal Ascot.
One of the ball’s main attractions will be a horse hired from the Oxford University Polo Club. It will be tethered at the gates of St Hilda’s to be photographed with all those who attend the ball.
Alex Fisken, Hilda’s Ball President, alleged that last year’s ball sponsor, Tesco, appeared reluctant to renew their sponsorship when told of the horse-related theme.
This follows the recent controversy surrounding the discovery by an Irish Food Standards Agency watchdog that some of Tesco’s own-brand beef burgers contained approximately 29% horsemeat.
When asked about Tesco’s reluctance to sponsor the event, Fisken said, “They were quite amused; I think that they thought that it was funny we were approaching them again in the light of what has happened. We had a bit of a mare to be honest.”
He added that sponsorship was still a bit of an issue for the organising committee, admitting, “We still have a race to run as far as sponsorship goes, a few hurdles to clear, but we have some great ideas as to how to improve this aspect of the ball as the date gets closer and we have already got Royal Ascot on board.”
Yet he was also keen to stress that he and the rest of the ball committee had no bad feelings towards Tesco regarding their reluctance: “Neigh, annoyed would be the wrong word; we’re pretty stable people so it’s really what we expected. Can’t expect them to saddle their name on to an event where an actual horse is going to be greeting people at the entrance can you?”
Yet when Cherwell approached Tesco for comment, a spokesperson said, “We’ve spoken to the store manager, who was completely unaware of this request. We understand that the local store made a donation to the ball last year, and it’s an offer which they’d be happy to repeat this year too.”
However, Fisken explained that they had not yet heard such response from Tesco. He maintained that they had emailed Tesco to confirm whether they would be sponsoring the event following Cherwell’s queries, but that they were still awaiting a reply.
St Hilda’s will be in competition with Lady Margaret Hall, Keble, Brasenose and the Somerville and Jesus joint ball, who have all chosen to hold their balls on 4th May.
Katherine Skingsley, Co-President of the Keble Ball organising committee, seemed confident that the competition would not cause any problems, stating, “Keble Ball has built up a fantastic reputation over the years, and we have in fact already sold out in the general sale for this year! Preparations for the ball are now well under way.”
The controversy surrounding horsemeat in Tesco burgers continued in Cowley last week.
Tesco has recently launched an inquiry after burgers that should have been withdrawn were found on sale at the Cowley Road branch of Tesco in Oxford.
After being tipped off by a customer that shelves were still stocked with the banned burgers, a BBC journalist managed to purchase a box.
A cashier overrode a till alert to sell the burgers, which Tesco had recently ordered to be removed from shelves owing to the recent horse meat contamination scandal.
Tesco have now dropped the supplier of the contaminated burgers, Silvercrest, part of the ABP Food Group.
In response to the incident in Cowley, Tesco said, “Whilst this product was not implicated in the FSAI investigation, and was withdrawn as a precaution, we are urgently investigating how this product came to be on a shelf in store. The block on purchase at the checkout should not have been overridden. We sincerely apologise for this, and we have spoken to the store to ensure that this does not happen again.”
However, first-year language student Chris Allnutt did not seem to feel that an apology was necessary. Instead, he explained his gratitude towards the supermarket, commenting, “Before the Tesco scandal, I was worried there was no real meat in their burgers at all. To have my suspicions proven wrong is refreshing and heartening. It’s nice to know Tesco cares enough about protein levels that they would go out of their way to add some meat, albeit meat of a horsey variety, to my dinner.