In March, two subjects came up and shook the showjumping world – the controversial invitation system that the FEI agreed on with the Global Champions Tour and the Global Champions League as well as the proposal from the International Equestrian Organizers Alliance and Alliance of Jumping Organisers on harmonizing the entry fees worldwide. Many of the world’s top riders have voiced their concerns about the development of the sport, and in which direction it is heading – and the topics were also up for discussion on the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne in the middle of April.
During the Saut Hermès in Paris – prior to the FEI Sports Forum – World of Showjumping sat down with Stephan Conter – founder and CEO of the successful Stephex Group, as well as organizer of the Stephex Masters and Knokke Hippique, not to forget father of two talented riders – to hear what he has to say about the future of showjumping.
“What the Global Champions Tour has done for our sport is fantastic. The only thing we have to remember is that we are more than one; we are hundreds of people organizing shows,” Conter says.
Conter would want to see another take on the current star system. “We should really think about how we evaluate the shows. If one show organizer wants their event to be more expensive, we should let them do that. If you go to a two-star hotel, you pay for the services of a two-star level. If you go to a five-star hotel, you expect to get more value for your money. This is simple,” Conter explains.
“We now have the star system to evaluate shows, which is based on prize money only. Instead, we should think about the event as a whole – the quality of the event; footing, stables, everything. If there is a show that wants to do more, and there are people who are ready to pay for this – everyone can choose what they want to do. But the ranking points should be the same – they can change the entry fee if they want, they can alter the prize money – but the ranking points should be the same. In the end it is all about the sport and everyone should have a fair chance to compete for the ranking points,” Conter explains.
With more five-star events organized than ever before, Conter sees a positive competition. “Often there are more than one five-star event during a weekend. As an organizer, of course I would want to be the only one organizing a five-star event at any given weekend – but that would be selfish. The fact that there are more than one five-star events at the same time is a must – there are so many good riders. We are not only talking about the Top 30 here; there are good riders in the Top 100 and also further on the ranking that also would like to ride ranking classes and take part at the five-star events,” Conter explains. “We should push to have even more shows, so that we could have two to three five-star events every weekend – this way, if one of the shows is too expensive or somehow otherwise not accessible for a rider, there would be another option and everyone would get a chance to collect the same amount of ranking points.”
Having two talented daughters riding, Counter is worried about what the future holds for the equestrian sport. “Will showjumping only be a sport for the very exclusive few in ten years? We need to think about the talents we have, and think about the sport not the money.”
Conter is also of the opinion that the voting system needs to be looked closer at. “If you look at the sport in general, the fact that a minor horse country has the same amount of votes as a very strong country – put any small riding nation against France, Germany, Belgium or Holland for example – that is ridiculous. We should have a system where the amount of deciding votes is based on the amount of riders in the country, on the amount of horses, on the amount of riders in general – you name it how we should calculate it, but we definitely should make sure that those that are the leading equestrian countries are leading the development of our sport. Not those that have no clue about our sport in general. In other sports this is totally different!” Conter says. “What are we going to see in the Olympics in a few years? People who cannot ride a 1.45m course?”
As many top riders have voiced their concern, Conter points towards how the showjumping community must make sure that it has representatives in the places where decisions are made – because these decisions are not made on Facebook. “I have no time to pursue a spot in the FEI for example, but I am happy to help and negotiate and share my experiences. I think it is vital we take action now and motivate intelligent people to represent the showjumping world – we need to put our selfish intentions and greed to the side and sit around the same table.”
NOTE: This interview was done prior to the FEI Sports Forum 2017 and Conter’s Open Letter to the FEI President
Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Picture © Jenny Abrahamsson
(No reproduction without permission)
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