The 2016 FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne is being held on April 4-5. New Zealand will be represented by Equestrian Sports NZ CEO Vicki Glynn and President Richard Sunderland.
At last year’s forum, there was a lot of discussion about possible changes to equestrian sports to make sure that they remain in the Olympics. Considerable feedback has been received by the FEI but it appears that despite a lot of negative and opposing reactions to many of the changes, they are still on the agenda for this year. There is increasing criticism of the FEI, right through to Sir Mark Todd recently being quoted in Horse & Hound asking if the Federation has the best interests of the sport at heart, and wondering if it is more interested in collecting revenue. In his Horse & Hound column, Captain Mark Phillips stated that the “FEI has lost a lot of credibility with its stakeholders, who put an unbelievable amount of time into submitting opinions.”
“We are continuing on our consultation cycle which began in earnest at the Sports Forum last year when the first proposals were presented. We know as a sport some of the challenges we face when it comes to universality, media appetite, and appealing to new audiences and fans and this is precisely what the proposals are tackling.”
Proposed eventing changes
Eventing has a lot of changes proposed and as a result has received a lot of responses. One of the proposed changes is to have only three in each team at the Olympics and remove the drop score. ESNZ does not support this; nor do the USA, Australia, France, Germany and Britain. However, the Swiss and the Swedes do.
Another proposal is shortening the dressage tests for the Olympics so that all the dressage can be completed in one day. This does seem to have wide acceptance by the various nations. There are proposed changes for the show jumping phase, with the suggestion that all three team members (presuming they have all made it through to this stage) go into the arena at the same time. There isn’t much support for that particular idea, and it does seem a bit of an odd one. There is a mixed response to the other proposed revisions in the show jumping format. The Swedes even went as far as proposing that the show jumping come before the cross-country and suggested that two very distinct Olympic competitions be held, 10 days apart: one for team medals and the other for individual medals.
To be ET – or not to be?
One of the most contentious items of all is the proposed change of name from Eventing to some form of ‘Equestrian Triathlon’ (which we will now abbreviate to ‘ET’). ESNZ is not averse to some sort of name‐change, provided it does not come at significant financial cost, saying, “We support Equi‐Tri, as Equestrian Triathlon is too long.” They have also bizarrely suggested that the other equestrian disciplines should have name-changes and become Equi‐Dressage and Equi‐Jumping! (ED & EJ?) They do have support for changing to Equi-Tri from the Swiss who go on to suggest perhaps calling it ET Eventing.
The British are happy with changing the name to ET as “it best describes the sport.” The Americans, however, don’t want to change the name, nor do the French, who do clarify that if it has to be changed, then they would accept ET. Mon dieu! Australia and Germany support the idea of hiring an external branding company to look at the name and options.
Many Federations have now made their statements on the proposals public. Equestrian Sports NZ has its up on its website; you can find it by clicking here. The British response is on this link. The US responses can be found here. The FEI has links to other Federations’ responses as well, on this link.
Back in February, a meeting was held at Heathrow Airport in London, involving many from the eventing world. Bruce Haskell of Event Riders Association International wrote a very good letter prior to the meeting. We have yet to track down a summary of the discussions held at the meeting, but understand there was good worldwide representation and the goal was to find some consensus around the proposed changes and thereby draw some key conclusions. Perhaps the lack of any document emerging after the meeting shows the difficulty of gaining that consensus.
The Sports Forum also has a focus on FEI officials, and there will be discussions on many thorny issues facing their advancement. These include transitional regulations from national to international level, on whether the qualification requirements are fair and equal for all and also how FEI officials are evaluated. There is even a discussion scheduled on whether FEI officials should retire after reaching a certain age (from 70 to 72). Also on the table for discussion are education and remuneration.
Meanwhile, over by the water-cooler…
Communication is another key topic at the Forum, with one session devoted to the communication landscape. “With the #RoadToRio firmly in our sights we will discuss how, combining our network of expertise, we can make equestrian sport the subject of water-cooler-chat all around the world.” (Note to self: obviously need to get a water cooler…)
After the Forum, recommendations and comments will be finalised before a draft of the new Eventing Rules is distributed in July. The draft will be published on the FEI website for further comment. The final draft will then be produced and be sent out in late October of this year to coincide with the FEI Statutes for the General Assembly.
For those interested and not in Lausanne, you can watch proceedings on FEI TV although, as yet, there does not appear to be a link or advert for this. The broadcast will be free of charge.