Interview for Farmers Journal
Q: When you became President what were the main tasks that you saw as in need of tackling?
• First elected FEI President in history.
• Elected on a clear manifesto based on six pillars:
• FEI Governance
• National Federations
• International Olympic Committee
• These were areas in which my predecessors had made inroads, but in which a stronger leadership and additional efforts were needed.
• Ever since my election in 2006, the work of the entire organisation has been based on this programme.
• In 2010, when I stood for re-election, I presented to the NFs the list of achievements and proposed the way forward.
Q: What would you say are the main successes of your Presidency so far?
Since my election to the FEI Presidency, I have dedicated myself
• to animal welfare in our sport;
• to a clean sport;
• to supporting National Federations in their development;
• to making the FEI more efficient in its day-to-day role
• to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the organisation.
We have implemented many of the deliverables outlined in my 2006 manifesto, including significant improvements in communications, marketing, FEI finances, grassroots development and liaison with the National Federations. New permanent headquarters for the FEI.
Q: Are you happy with the progress made in the programme for clean sport?
The welfare of the horse is one of the central pillars of the FEI and I am very happy that we have taken huge steps regarding animal welfare through the FEI’s Clean Sport Campaign, putting in place protocols that will ensure that the sport is clean, competition is fair and the competing horses are safe. This campaign has involved:
• Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations –unanimously approved by the 2009 FEI General Assembly. A comprehensive regulation system that covers both the rules on doping control and the rules on medication control.
• Equine Prohibited Substances List - produced and reviewed annually based on the recommendations of experts, including sports veterinarians, pharmacologists, toxicologists and research scientists. The List revisions are made following extensive consultation in response to scientific advances and available information regarding the use of substances in horses. The List review process is continuous and an updated List becomes effective on 1 January each year. We have 1,156 Prohibited Substances - anything prohibited in competition, no matter how the substance is classified, is called a “Prohibited Substance”: o 966 Banned Substances – these are doping substances, which have no place in equine sport; o 190 Controlled Medication substances - commonly used in equine medicine but prohibited in competition. EQUESTRIAN COMMUNITY INTEGRITY UNIT (ECIU) Independent integrity unit; launched on 1 January 2010; best practice in international sports The Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU) is essential to monitor corruption, identify offenders and conflicts of interest, as well as safeguard horse welfare. Integrity is about fair play right across the sport, not just about riders and officials. It as much about protecting the innocent as it is about trying to prevent and identify irregular practices. The ECIU is here to work with the FEI and its stakeholders, not against them. A vital part of the intelligence gathering system is the ECIU telephone hotline and email address for anyone wishing to report concerns they have regarding integrity issues. All calls and emails are confidential and individuals have the right to remain anonymous.
EDUCATION – critical in the anti-doping fight. There should be no cases of doping because of ignorance or lack of education. The most significant example is perhaps the FEI Clean Sport campaign which has been running for the last two years and which has set the benchmark for other sports federations.
• specific website explaining the rules and clarifying the roles of all those involved in the sport;
• Athletes Guide and How Testing Works Guide
• prohibited substances database accessible online and via iPhone and Android applications;
• global education programme;
• Clean Sport Toolkit aimed at helping Nations Federations and equestrian stakeholders to familiarise athletes and their support teams with equine and human anti-doping regulations and procedures. It will offer presenters of anti-doping workshops a structured set-up of all the materials they need on a USB stick. Contains five tools to break down the complexities of Clean Sport (a presentation, tips for presenters, resources centre, quiz, and glossary) In 2010 we had no positive results in either our human or our equine athletes at the Youth Olympic Games and the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ and this is the best possible endorsement of the campaign. In 2011, only 0.5% of all horses tested through the FEI testing programmes were positive – an encouraging trend.
Q: How has the overall FEI organisation evolved over the past six years?
The FEI has become a more transparent, accessible, professional and financially sound organisation. This the first FEI administration that has not increased taxes at all, for National Federations or our sport. The FEI has become a body that no longer survives predominantly on taxation of its sport.
New valuable sponsors – HSBC in Eventing and Reem Acra in Dressage – have been added, and we continue to have loyal support of Rolex.
FEI Solidarity - I believe that commercialisation and development go hand-in-hand: development that is sustainable also requires a commercial income, which is dependent on the commercial success of the organisation as a whole. Development should not be seen as handouts to the less well off, but rather as the right of National Federations to evolve with dignity.
Clean sport campaign as mentioned above I have delivered on my pledge to strengthen equestrian disciplines within the Olympic movement. We have protected our status within the Olympic Family.
Q: Could you point to the main developments in the various aspects of the sport [the four disciplines were selected by the journalist]:
• The biggest FEI discipline with 1236 Jumping events out of a total of 3213 FEI events (38.5%).
• Very good relationship with Rolex, one of the world’s leading brands, sponsor of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping, the Rolex Rankings, and FEI Equestrian World TV magazine.
• The equestrian discipline at the Youth Olympic Games. Eventing
• Short format, i.e. cross country without roads and tracks and steeplechase, is now the norm. As a result, the number of events and NFs practicing the discipline has more than doubled in 10 years. (555 FEI events in 2011, 251 in 2001).
• Improved Eventing Risk Management Policy and Action Plan;
• Creation of the HSBC FEI Classics™ uniting all 5* events in a series. HSBC as a title sponsor;
• FEI World Cup™ Eventing
• FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing – trial season launched in March 2012
• Strengthened position in the Olympic movement Dressage
• Teams of three riders at the Olympic Games (instead of teams of four) – allow for greater universality as more nations can participate.
• Creation of FEI Dressage Judge General position – a lead judging post to ensure greater consistency and accuracy of judging at all levels of Dressage competition
• Judges Supervisory Panel (JSP) for major FEI events (Olympic Games, FEI World Equestrian Games™, FEI Continental Championships at Grand Prix level, FEI World Cup™ Finals). The JSP is allowed to correct the judges’ marks for factual errors. One of the benefits of the JSP is to provide a “back-up” for the judges in order to protect both judges and athletes by preventing unfair marks.
• Reem Acra – title sponsor of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage, Western European League Endurance
• A relatively young FEI discipline (since 1982)
• Second biggest FEI discipline with 811 events (25%).
• The FEI’s fastest growing discipline with competitions all over the world and what is a matter of great satisfaction is the fact that 30% of these events were for young riders and juniors (241 events for YRs and Js out of 811 events).
Q: Are there some things that you wished to accomplish that have not yet happened?
• Optimum structure for the Federation
• To generate and diversify revenue to enable FEI Solidarity.
• To unify our Federation and build alliances with other stakeholders
• To ensure the free movement of horses globally. Q: What would be your main ambitions for the overall sport over the next 20 years or so?
Q: To your way of thinking is equestrian sport sufficiently global? 132 NFs In 2011 – 77 NFs organised FEI events 2012 Olympic Games – 41 nations in the equestrian events (30 nations at the 1996 Olympic Game) Universality is a pledge made in 2010. Creation of FEI Solidarity Are you happy with the current status of Nations Cup competition? Are there ways in which the Nations Cup concept could be improved?
The FEI Nations Cup is our oldest and most prestigious team competition. It dates back to 1909; the term “Nations Cup” has become synonymous with team competition. We have to ensure this series which goes back over 100 years and which has always proved very appealing, remains so in the future, especially in a rapidly changing world. It is now our duty to look at the future of the FEI Nations Cup with an open mind in order to make the best possible decisions for its future. The series should be universal and all National Federations should be able to compete. Also the current competition format – two identical Jumping rounds held on the same day over the same course – needs to be reviewed in order to attract more spectators and to make it more television friendly.
We need to be courageous and make the necessary decisions that will guarantee the future of the series. Could there be greater integration of Nations Cup, Global Champions Tour and the various Masters events? Yes and this is being discussed during the FEI Sports Forum. It is our objective to achieve a balanced calendar. The number of weekends is limited and we must ensure that there is balance between all the series, that they don’t clash, and that horse welfare is taken into account.
Q: Are there obstacles in the way of further development in the Sport and what would they be?
• transportation and quarantine challenges – I am committed to personally facilitating Government-to-Government discussions to help ease these, while also working with regional organisations within the FEI to support their own efforts and provide them with the tools for self-sufficiency in this regard. The FEI Veterinary Department has also established strong working relationships with the OIE and the relevant authorities and we have made considerable progress in this area.