The first day of the FEI Sports Forum 2017 (10-11 April-Lausanne) was dedicated to the Jumping, with discussions on the future of the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping. Also on the agenda were: the online invitation system, CSI/CSIO requirements, dress code and a focus on events aimed at Youth. The Director of the International Jumping Riders Club, President Christina Liebherr, IJRC Director Eleonora Ottaviani, Laura Borromeo, and board member, 2012 Olympic Champion and Nations Cup’s panel member Steve Guerdat all attended the Sports forum, expressing the Club’s position on different themes.
Regarding the Nations Cup, panellist Steve Guerdat underlined the importance of this prestigious series, expressing the views of some other top riders, alongside his own.
“It’s probably the most important class, that we, as athletes can take part in. There’s a lot of pride for every rider in being able to ride for your country. It’s not just about you, it’s about your country,” Steve said.
“It’s just about the prize money at the moment but I think we should concentrate on making the Nations Cup the best product we can, so that the sponsors and money will follow once the product is where it should be. The main investment should be in how to make this product so good that the sponsors are willing to put money into it, and not just thinking about money driving the whole thing.”
As to the format of the Nations Cup series, Guerdat said: “I don’t think we should change the format that much. It should stay as it is.”
The number of qualifiers were also discussed, and the panellists together with Steve agreed that the current amount of qualifiers works well. “You can not just send everybody to the five-stars level in a single day, when they are not up to that level yet. So, it is very good to produce new riders and new horses over three-star and four-star CSIOs” said Guerdat.
The Irish rider Jack Dodd, 23-years-old, member of the “A Young Riders Academy” 2017, reinforced this concept, adding: “The Nations Cups are our best opportunity to come through.”
The President of the German Equestrian Federation, Breido Graf zu Rantzau,
underlined the importance of giving more Rankings points to the Nations Cup, and the IJRC Executive Director Eleonora Ottaviani stressed her agreement, adding that at the end of the year the riders who decide to compete in the Nations Cup series should not be penalised. These include athletes of the calibre of Steve Guerdat, Kevin Staut, Penelope Leprevost, Jeroen Dubbeldam and many others who give up the chance to compete in shows with high prize money in order to take part in Nations Cups.
Mrs Ottaviani added that many riders are happy to compete in the NC because the standard of organization and facilities (for example: size of the arena and warm ups, materials, stables) are in most cases at the very top level as the have to strictly adhere to FEI CSIO requirements, and facilities and conditions are better than in some CSI with a lot of prize money.
It was clear that the IJRC intends to support the Nations Cup because:
- It is a series that is certainly worth defending;
- The Nations Cup forms the essence of our sport, permitting Chef d’Equipe and federations to build teams for championships and the Olympic Games;
- Today the circuit provides spacious, high-level show grounds, trial grounds that are in line with measures which allow good working conditions prior to events, high-standard obstacle materials and technical requirements, good programmes. These are not always found in other events or show jumping series;
- The Nations Cups must be helped and defended;
- Riders must find a way to participate using their best horses;
- The FEI must continue to seek common sponsors, supported by communication and marketing;
- Organizers must guarantee efficiency, continuity and improvement;
- Unfortunately, the prize money is not in line with other 5* events. However,
teams are not required to pay substantial fees to enrol their members in the series;
- It is the Nations Cup which permits show jumping to be an Olympic Sport.
Regarding the CSI requirement and harmonization session, again the IJRC Director expressed the position of the Club: A substantial rethink of the problem is required, she said, because Jumping is the only sport where at the top level the athlete is asked to pay.
She clearly stated that top riders should not pay to compete, in line with many others sports, since the organisers can sell tickets for events. It is different in lower level shows, but we need to keep the fees acceptable in order not to stifle breeders, upcoming athletes and to give young horses the chance to jump.
The entry fee should include everything, as fixed in a statement signed between FEI and IJRC after more than 7 years of discussion, without then asking the riders to pay additional money for manuvers, electricity and so on. The discussion seems to be positive and there should be the stop the increase of entry fee.
The International Jumping Riders Club produce a document called Dossier Argo to clarify and explain its position on a lot of important issues, that we will be published this week.
The athletes thank the FEI for having given them the opportunity to discuss key issues in a context that has seen all active stakholder.