Sunday 9th of June 2024
Eventing

Landmark 2020 meeting to discuss eventing

Ahead of today’s landmark meeting to discuss the future of eventing under the Olympic Agenda 2020, The Gaitpost spoke to Bruce Haskell, President of the Eventing Riders Association (International) and David Holmes, British Eventing Chief Executive about the importance of this meeting.

 

See below to read Bruce Haskell’s Open Letter in full.

 

How did this meeting come about? 

Bruce Haskell: ERA International has been talking to stakeholders during the last year about the proposed format changes to eventing as an Olympic sport for 2020. This meeting was initiated one month ago, and it is setting a precedent in that the representing nations will sit down and discuss eventing in relation to the Olympic 2020 Agenda. ERA International has worked with BE to have a meeting with the eventing personnel from national federations and that is a significant step.

Why is it so important?

Bruce Haskell: The FEI are proposing changes and we want to make sure we are part of the discussion about what those changes are. There is a great deal to consider and the significance of this meeting is to consider the opinions of all nations regardless of their eventing strength. For every rider and group that we have talked to, it became clear that we could not get a clear consensus. This meeting is a statement of awareness of where we are right now and something historic is happening today. We need consider change to meet the IOC’s criteria but not change the sport too far from what we recognise. 

If we don’t join these discussions, we may not get the results we want when the FEI report back to the IOC. This is us, as a sport, taking the future of the sport very seriously. This meeting needs to occur to ensure that the sport does get a response that we all want. ERA International are being proactive in the decision making rather than reactive to the decision that is made. 

What does this opportunity hold for the sport?

David Holmes: Firstly, the importance of today is getting everyone talking and discussing the future bearing of the sport. It is an opportunity for all the federations to talk. I think what is important is a) everyone understands what the proposals are and hears everyone views and b) to encourage everyone to feed back to the FEI before the FEI Eventing Committee meeting on 1st and 2nd March with their views. This is not about getting everyone to sign up to one view, it is to air the different views.  Everyone has to engage – and if we can reach a consensus on certain things, that would be an added bonus.

The biggest opportunity this brings is to get the voice heard. This is not about getting everyone to agree to British Eventing’s view. This is about British Eventing acting in a role of leadership to assist in the collaboration, consultation and communication process. 

–/–

 

2020 Open Letter from Bruce Haskell, President of the Eventing Riders Association (International) 

22 February 2016

To Whom It May Concern,

Almost a year has passed since discussions began again about the future of Eventing at the Olympics.

At the 2015 FEI Sports Forum, Kit McConnell from the IOC, gave a presentation to all equestrian sports, not just eventing, on the need to consider change. Change to stay relevant, change to grow, change to engage, change for sustainability and change for commercial presence at the future Olympic games.

The address he gave was not just to question whether Equestrian sports stayed part of the Olympic movement and was not just another perceived scare. This was the IOC asking all sports to consider their future in the Olympic movement.

From that time various proposals for suggested the Olympic Eventing format were put forward from different nations. The majority of the focus seemed to balance on the need for both a team medal and individual medal. With proposals from different groups as to the best Eventing format to create that balance. It was clear from a very early point that a cohesive and widely accepted plan was going to be difficult to achieve.

At the same time the FEI eventing committee held meetings at key events and listened to the concerns and suggestions of the stakeholders that attended.

The fact remained that for Eventing to be a credible Olympic sport, the format must reflect the highest level of our competition therefore the only format to consider was CCI. This left the difficult issue of two medals from one effort. Every athlete in Eventing wants to the chance to be the best even if they are competing in a team. This is only natural and very unique to our sport because we simply cannot repeat the cross country phase on the same horse.

Late in 2015 the news came through that Eventing no longer required “two efforts for two medals”. That information dramatically simplified the process of format and made the traditional CCI possible.

The FEI Eventing committee therefore presented their proposed format to the 2015 FEI General Assembly in November.

The proposed format has some significant changes that intend to meet the IOC suggested criteria for making out sport more easily understood to a wider audience and increasing nation participation. It also makes a clear attempt to retain the “core” of eventing whilst enhancing the separation from team and individual medals.

There are some basic ideas that will work within the proposal that will work however it has left some remaining questions that still divide the eventing community. These issues are:
-3 in a team with no drop score
-Show jumping running order. Individual first or last.
-Inclusion of composite teams and a moderated scoring system.
Eventing has to be careful at this point and consider the future of what our sport will look like at all levels. The Olympics, as we have seen in past, has a top down effect of the rest of the sport. There is a potential influence that in order to meet IOC criteria of the Olympic Eventing competition being the highest level of our sport, we may have to use this format at all team competitions.

British Eventing held the second of their working groups and produced a paper of suggestions. ERA International was approached by British Eventing, who had produced a paper drawn from the conclusions of their own 2020 working group, to forward their paper to other national federations for consideration. During that process differences of opinion surfaced.

A similar working group was held by the EEF Eventing group and again the outcome of that varied from the FEI proposal and that of British Eventing. It is clear that in some cases what will suit one country will not suit others. Bearing in mind that national Olympic funding comes from the performances of their Olympic Eventing athletes, there is a lot at stake.

ERA International feels very strongly that there is a gap within FEI governance that allows key decisions and rule changes to be made by the National Federations as a whole and not by the Eventing components of those groups.

With that in mind ERA International proposed a meeting whereby as many Eventing specific representatives of National Federations where invited to discuss the key points of the FEI Committee 2020 proposal.

The aim of this meeting is to create an environment where key conclusions can be drawn. Even if the conclusion is that common agreement cannot be found and further work needs to be undertaken then that is a positive outcome. The meeting is seen as a way of supporting the FEI Eventing Committee to be able to produce an Olympic Format that both meets the changing needs of the sport and the need for change from the IOC.

The timing of the meeting is critical. The FEI Eventing Committee meet in early March and the FEI Sports Forum where the Olympic Formats of all equestrian disciplines will be presented is on the 5th of April.

The meeting to be held at Heathrow on Tuesday the 23rd of February 2016 is very significant. It will be the first ever time key personnel representing the Eventing specific views of National Federations will have met. ERA International worked with British Eventing and the EEF to ensure as many countries views will be heard. Attendance at the meeting range from the super powers of modern eventing through to developing Eventing nations so conclusions drawn from the meeting will be representative and difficult to ignore.

For our part the ERA International committee drew the conclusion that based on the diverse differences in opinion of our athletes it would be wrong to offer a single conclusion and feel that we are best served representing the athletes by helping to facilitate the discussions surrounding the key topics by making sure this meeting happened.

Whatever the outcome will be ERA International is aware that change needs to occur. Change will never suit all stakeholders. We must all look to find a balance between the role of Eventing in the evolving nature of sport as medium of entertainment and the traditional values of our unique sport.

The time for change is upon us and this meeting is essential to defining what that change looks like and what Eventing looks like in the future.

Bruce Haskell
President of the Eventing Riders Association (International)

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