IJRC’s s-Hertogenbosch riders meeting, the time for change

March 2014 - A more meritocratic system and a more responsible representation in the FEI and in the National Federations. This is what the IJRC claims, after meeting in s-Hertogenbosch where many current topics have been discussed.

First of all the fact that, with the globalised sport business, the European Championship has surely lost in value in a calendar which is more and more overbooked by 5 stars events. A natural consequence of the evolution of the sport, which needs sponsors from all over the world. However, for the riders, the value of a European Championship does not change and remains one of their main goals, indeed Herning Europeans presented the best riders and horses and have been a great success.

On the other side, Ludger Beerbaum underlined the importance of not complaining: “Our sport has evolved from the ‘80s, and now lives on the effects of globalisation, with sponsors fighting each other to cover the shows. At the same time, some clear rules are required in order to distinguish one show from another. From my point of view a limited offer of top events is still key to stay in the Olympic program”.

Difficult to say: on one hand too many 5 stars in a weekend are inflating the sport, on the other hand this system permits a wider number of athletes to jump in different locations, opening the doors to upcoming riders. IJRC’s Director Eleonora Ottaviani reminded that nowadays there are more than one hundred riders who can compete at Grand Prix level the same weekend. If there weren’t so many shows they wouldn’t be able to jump and only the best 30 would compete. In any case, added Director Ottaviani, riders should clearly express their opinion to the FEI in order to establish a new evaluation system.

However the IJRC’s riders seem to be more intentioned to have less 5 stars venues for many reasons: most of them think that there is a big difference between winning a GP in presence of the top riders or not. Still, the gap existing among riders coming from all over the world must be considered. Further more other topics need to be discussed, such as prize money, ranking list and pay cards.

Francois Mathy Jr. (that sent his report for the meeting) focused his attention on price money and ranking, underlining how both are meant to keep the sport at the top and not to rule it. Riders who are serial-winners must appear at the top of it and those who improve and perform well from a lower level should be able to move up. This should be the goal of a world ranking.

But what happens in real life is that it is difficult for upcoming riders to get in 3* to 5* shows and, consequently, to move up in a ranking which appears to be always the same. The reasons can be found in an unrestrained use of pay cards, an improper point system assignation in CSI2* and CSI3* GP and the disadvantage for riders who have only one Grand Prix horse. In addiction to that, CSIO3* or lower are the unique chance for the majority of riders to get in big events, being the only one in which they are chosen by their own national federations. Still, these CSIOs don’t have a right point distribution system yet.

On this situation some remarks are necessary: it is certainly fair to give more points in a 5 stars GP than in lower stars one, but actually 2* or 3* shows are not rewarded enough because they do not consider the GP for the big part of the prize money. Therefore it is important to require a minimum prize money for these shows, so that every GP will be correctly rewarded in both, points and money.

Other options have been examined but have been rejected not corresponding to the ranking purpose. For instance: giving more points for the same money, with the result that every organiser would go for the minimum, damaging the shows which have tried to keep the prize money high. Another solution was to set a new category of points in CSI2* with two ranking classes plus a minimum prize money in the Grand Prix. A pair horse-rider ranking had been thought as well: this system would have helped the riders who have one GP horse but it wouldn’t have been horse-friendly at all, promoting the use of the same horse to grow in the ranking. The ranking must allow the winner to be at the top also considering a fair management of different horses. Other proposals had been made such as giving points according to the riders’ level; this would have gone in the opposite direction, adding more and more points to the top 30 riders. Somebody thought of going back to the 50 previous results. The longer we discuss it, the more we see that the actual ranking doesn’t help to get in the shows: riders placed in the top 200 cannot access 3* shows, riders in the top 50 cannot access 5*. What we ask ourselves is if the ranking has any utility in the invitation system, maybe it should be minimized instead of emphasized. Does the ranking have too much influence on the sport? This is the main issue.

Going back to the list of the aspects concerning the level of shows, we see that change is strongly needed. Only introducing a stricter requirement system will allow the shows to guarantee their 5 stars evaluation. Concerning pay cards a proposal has been presented by the riders: renaming some events 6* shows, adding one to the 5 stars shows which choose not to accept pay cards.

On the extra fees matter, already discussed in a previous article, the IJRC assembly agreed not to allow any extra costs and promoted a more involved representative rider in the FEI Jumping Committee, able to fight on the sport’s side and to obtain more attention from the FEI and the national federations. Which have never been so far from the athletes as they are.

Barbara Leoni