07 Nov 2013

FEI General Assembly 2013

Members of the Bureau,

National Federation Representatives,

Colleagues and guests,

Welcome to the FEI General Assembly 2013.

I am so glad to see so many of you here today!

We have many new faces at our headquarters in Lausanne.

In early October, we welcomed our new Chief Financial Officer, Claude Praz, who has already been a great asset to our finance department. One of Claude’s main tasks will be to further increase the transparency of our accounting system.

Claude was CFO of Scott Sports Group, an international manufacturer of high sport performance products.  

Also in October, FEI General Counsel Lisa Lazarus took on her new role as FEI Chief of Business Development and Strategy. The FEI has attracted top-tier sponsors; Lisa will ensure they get top-tier service. She will also look for ways to increase the FEI’s revenue streams to support additional investment in the development of our sport.

Lisa has been succeeded in the Legal Department by Mikael Rentsch, who has been appointed Director of the Legal Department. Mikael and I joined the FEI together, and he brings to this new job an institutional knowledge of the growth and evolution of that department.

In April, we welcomed former London 2012 Equestrian Competition Manager Tim Hadaway in his new role of Director of the FEI’s new Games and Championships Department. His main task is to ensure that all FEI technical requirements for Games and Championships are delivered.

It also has been a great pleasure for the FEI to observe that some of our National Federations have celebrated “firsts” this year. The Tunisian Federation saw its first female Jumping rider competing at the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final; Mauritius has seen its first equestrian athlete qualify for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 and the Cambodian Equestrian Federation is for the first time sending a team to the Southeast Asian Games, which take place next month.

The year 2013 has seen a number of very positive changes within the FEI and our sport in general.

We continued to improve our Information Technology system, notably with the launch of new online Entry Systems for Jumping and Endurance Events. These systems allow National Federations and organising committees to manage the entries of athletes and horses through a single online platform, where they can also check the eligibility of athletes and horses before events AND allow the NFs and OC to manage results better.

The Entry System has improved communication and ensured higher quality, traceable data. We intend to progressively provide the same system for all FEI disciplines.

We shall continue to build on these improvements – it’s not perfect yet, but we will continue to work on it.

Thirty-five National Federations hosted more FEI events last year than they did in 2011. We also saw an increase in international events. There were 3,379 international events last year, up 164 from 2011.

FEI Solidarity is contributing to this global growth. Our solidarity programme has made great progress since you launched it with unanimous support in the 2011 General Assembly.

The FEI Solidarity structure covers around 20 areas of activity under four “pillars” — athletes, coaches, National Federations and equestrian values.

To date, the FEI Solidarity Department has received 145 applications for funds or technical assistance from 40 National Federations. Thirty-six projects have received financial support, and many others have benefited from the incredible expertise within our community. 

None of this would be possible without the generosity of donors, and the degree of donors support reflects the true solidarity within our community and the strong desire to support the growth of our sport worldwide.

In one of the most significant milestones of 2013, we finalised the single biggest commercial agreement in the history of the FEI — in fact, one of the biggest for any International Federation. We are delighted that Longines joined the FEI family in January at an official signing ceremony in Switzerland.

Under our 10-year agreement, one of the most important global sports partnerships in recent years, Longines became the Official Top Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of the FEI.

As you know, the partnership involves a number of major rights packages, including the FEI World Rider Rankings for Jumping. We have a lot to look forward to together.

Longines became the new title partner of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping when the 2013/2014 season started last month. Longines will also be the Official Timekeeper of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2018 and 2022, and the title sponsor of the FEI World Endurance Championships in 2016 and 2020.

In addition, our Top Partner and the FEI are investing in time-keeping and data-handling services and technology for our sport and supporting the television magazine, FEI Equestrian World.

We achieved another exciting milestone in FEI history in February, when the new Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series began in Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates. This would not have been possible without the generosity and trust of the Saudi Equestrian Fund.

We are truly grateful to the Saudi Equestrian Fund board of trustees and its Chairman HH Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al Saud.

I know there were doubts about this new format, which was a brave transition to the future. The fantastic Final in Barcelona should put any doubts to rest. It was a very strong start that launched a universal series that is only going to get bigger and better.

Financially, the FEI is in very good health. I am happy to say that we went beyond our objective of breaking even and achieved a significant positive financial result. The 2012 accounts will be presented for your approval at this General Assembly.

Thanks to our existing and new partners, the budgets for the coming years look much better. The contribution of the London Olympic Games was more important than we expected: we received a total of 15 million Swiss Francs. We are spreading part of this revenue over four years while keeping a reserve, as the revenues for International Federations for the next Olympics are not yet known.

Now, on to sport.

We all recognise that Endurance is facing some serious issues. Those issues are being addressed, and they will be resolved. The session we had yesterday shows the strength of our organisation and our ability to deal with difficult issues in a transparent way.

At last year’s General Assembly, you approved several rule changes specifically designed to safeguard the welfare of horses. These changes in Endurance included the qualification of athletes and horses; post competition rest periods; and ensuring the availability of veterinary care with the introduction of compulsory Endurance Treatment Veterinarians.

Responding to concerns raised by National Federations, in July, the FEI hosted a Round Table session on Endurance for representatives from Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the European Equestrian Federation, the FEI Endurance Committee and FEI Headquarters. The session ended with unanimous approval of measures that need to be taken for the discipline going forward.

I am confident that, under the leadership of Andrew Finding, the Endurance Strategic Planning Group will find ways to strengthen and improve the discipline and set out a roadmap for the next decade. I am very grateful to everybody who has been involved in the discussions so far, and I urge all who have ideas to share them with the ESPG.

Our standing in the Olympic Movement remains secure, although we should never take it for granted. I was pleased that the recent IOC Session in Buenos Aires voted to keep equestrian sport as one of the core sports of the 2020 Games, maintaining the Olympic stature we have enjoyed since 1900.

We can also celebrate the addition of one new member of the FEI family to the International Olympic Committee - Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski of the Philippines. This election means we now have five FEI family members in the IOC, which makes us one of the International Federations with the highest number of representatives in the IOC.

Our FEI allies were also deeply involved in other important decision that the IOC Session in Buenos Aires took. Our Honorary Vice President, Mr Tsunekazu Takeda, led Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Games. I know at least two people who are with us at this General Assembly were also very pleased with the outcome – Dr Yasuhiko Haruta and Mr Kazuya Hirayama from the Japanese National Federation.

Gentlemen, I would like to congratulate you and your compatriots on your National Olympic Committee’s successful bid. With the help from these two FEI leaders, and with Mr Takeda serving on Japan’s National Olympic Committee as President of the Organising Committee of the 2020 Games, we can look forward to great Games in Japan.

The election of a new IOC president in Buenos Aires was a bittersweet moment for me. I greatly admired President Rogge, a kind and humble man who always put the interests of athletes first. He compiled an impressive record during his time in office, overseeing six successful Olympic Games, leading the fight against doping, making great stride for gender equality and launching the Youth Olympic Games.

The good news is that newly elected IOC President Thomas Bach of Germany is a true friend of equestrian sport. As a former president of the German National Olympic Committee, he is well aware of his country’s record of success and deep commitment to our sport. Our future is in good hands under his leadership in the IOC.

We have made good progress over the past year with regard to the free movement of horses globally and to build alliances with other equestrian organisations.

We moved forward on transport and quarantine when the FEI sealed a formal collaboration with the World Animal Health Organisation (the OIE). The OIE understands why competition horses need to move expeditiously across national borders.

Earlier this year, the OIE General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the development of new standards and guidelines for the temporary international movement of a specific sub-population of high-health, high-performance competition horses.

Work is underway to develop guidance to officially differentiate our higher level horses from other equines and to adopt an approach that reflects their lower risk.

The OIE resolution also called for more public-private partnerships. To this end, our National Federations have been asked to work closely with their governments to develop a mutual understanding of these issues.

Although a lot of work still needs to be done, 2013 may be remembered as a breakthrough year for collaboration between the FEI and governments on transport and quarantine issues.

We have had an even bigger breakthrough in collaborating with other equestrian stakeholders three days ago when the FEI Bureau approved plans for the FEI to join forces with the International Horseracing Federation to create the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC), a non-profit and politically neutral association to defend our common interests.

As we all know, there is strength in unity. The new confederation creates a framework for cooperation on all areas where stakeholders in horse sport have a common interest. It will initially focus on transport and quarantine to build on the momentum the FEI has achieved on its own. The confederation will be open to all equestrian and equine organisations that share our policy interests and our concerns for animal welfare, integrity and values.

That covers some of the highlights of the year that is nearing an end. Now let’s look to the future. We have a very full calendar ahead of us.

Preparations for the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing next August are well underway. The equestrian venue will be ready in January, and we very much look forward to seeing our young Jumping talents in this event, which is as much about cultural education and exchange as it is about sports.

We can also look forward to the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 will be the biggest sporting event in France. It is expected to attract half-million spectators and competitors from more than 60 countries.

This summer’s Endurance, Eventing and Driving test events in Normandy went well and enabled us to identify details that require fine-tuning. Test events in Jumping and Dressage will be held next June, and although there will be no test events in Reining, Vaulting and Para-Equestrian Dressage, all the technical aspects will be well trialled.

I would like to thank the Organising Committee for the excellent work carried out so far in collaboration with Tim Hadaway and our sports departments.

As for the 2018 WEG, we have received expressions of interest from the United States, and Canada has declared its intention to resubmit a bid.

Although the initial Canada bid from Bromont/Montreal was technically impressive, the FEI Bureau agreed in July to re-open the bidding process because of concerns about the possible financial risk to the FEI related to questions about public sector support in Canada.

Recently Great Britain withdrew its bid, but with two bids from the USA (Lexington and Wellington) and Bromont, we expect to be able to make a final decision on the 2018 host in 2015.

Work on the 2016 Rio Games is also underway.

The FEI is working very closely with the Brazilian Organising Committee on technical matters, and the relevant FEI departments are very much focused on the task at hand.

The Deodoro venue, where equestrian will be hosted, became much more important as other Olympic Sports joined this cluster. Important infrastructural works will improve the connections with the city centre of Rio de Janeiro drastically. 

We have a lot to look forward to, and we need to make next year as good as this year has been.

You have brought the FEI to where it is today. The Clean Sport initiative and the great Games we had in London were not my work; they were your work.

Top-tier sponsors don’t come to the FEI to support me. They come because of the quality of our competition and because our federation stands apart from other International Federations in terms of transparency, governance and ethics. That is a credit to all of you.

The FEI is a family. Sometimes it’s a fractious family, with spirited internal disagreements. We certainly do not march in lockstep and we should not, but we always pull together when it matters, and it matters now.

The global sports landscape is undergoing significant change. We have new leadership at the IOC, at SportAccord, at the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, all of which impact us.

It is more important than ever that we stick together, with a unity of purpose on where we are going as a federation. We will continue to disagree at times on how we get there, but we cannot lose focus on our destination. We all want a well-run federation that serves its National Federations and athletes, and that is financially strong but, most importantly, ethically strong.

We have a lot of work to do in the year ahead.

Let’s start now, as we officially open the 2013 FEI General Assembly.

Thank you.