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Cash or country? Is the future of the Nations Cups in danger?

Thursday, 08 June 2017
The Future of the Nations Cups

Nations Cups. They used to be the glory and pride of our sport. But, constantly clashing with other five-star events that offer a whole other specter of prize money – more and more riders prioritize the cash instead of their country. And, who can blame them with the expenses they face every month? Stables, housing, employees for shows and at home, food, shavings, straw, travels, vets, blacksmiths, physios, dentists – the list goes on and on over the monthly bills that tick in at an international jumping stables.

This year, the Nations Cup-series has been left without a title-sponsor. For 2017, the FEI is supporting its own flagship product economically. Needless to say, that is not a long-term solution.

Up for debate at this year’s FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, the Nations Cups’ future was discussed: Its format, identity, value and prize money were some of the issues being talked about.

Steve Guerdat commented on behalf of the International Riders Jumping Club: “I think we should concentrate on making the Nations Cup the best product we can, so that the sponsors and money will follow once the product is there where it should be. The main investment should be done on how to make this product so good that the sponsors are willing to put money into it, and not just thinking about money driving the whole thing.”

But, after the great sport and fantastic atmosphere that was there for all to enjoy at the CSIO5* Nations Cup events Lummen, La Baule and Rome – is the series really in danger?

World of Showjumping spoke with Henk Nooren (NED), Rob Ehrens (NED) and Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) to hear what they had to say on the topic.

Henk Nooren: 

“In general, Nations Cup as a product is world-wide. There are for sure parts of the world where they think the Nations Cups are less important. But especially in Europe we really love this format. Take La Baule for example: The day of the Nations Cup – it could not have been better, the atmosphere in the stadium was just incredible. That is why we keep on loving the Nations Cup events.

There is a little bit of a split at the moment. For sure there are riders that are being pulled towards the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) events, with all the money and ranking points involved. Then you have others, that love the Nations Cups. There has been an enormous development in the sport and also in the amount of the shows that are held. In 2017 there are 93 five star shows! I believe that it is the duty of the FEI, the federations and the show organizers, to lift also the Nations Cup events economically to a better level.

For the Nations Cups, we have the most beautiful surroundings and events in my opinion. It is not only about the money – instead of jumping in non-permanent rings, empty stadiums and no atmosphere, you have these traditional venues where the public is completely behind their riders. For the federations the Nations Cup events are extremely important, because they are the only shows where the federation can send the five riders they want to, with no obligations what so ever to the current ranking.

At the moment, the most important thing is to find a new sponsor for the Nations Cup-series. If the FEI cannot do this, maybe Western-Europe has to do it on their own. We have to try to bring the prize money up too, so that the riders can earn a decent amount of money when they do well for their nation.

After that we can talk about whether or not we have to change the formula. But, that is only possible – or necessary – after a sponsor is found, so you can sit down and also see what the sponsors expect.” 

Rodrigo Pessoa:

“I really believe in the Nations Cup-series, and the pride of representing your country. Working as a team is something that is really special. I am sure that the FEI is taking the situation seriously and is doing their best to find a new sponsor.

Historically, the Nations Cup is so important and it is the oldest product of the FEI. For the moment they are suffering, because the FEI has not been able to secure a new sponsor after the departure of Furusiyya. Nations Cups are hurting comparing to LGCT and other major events, that have done a great job putting the money together and are offering a very good product.

As a Chef d’Equipe, it is not easy to convince the riders to come and compete because of the clashes between the events. Economically, the CSIO-NC shows are not very good. We don’t want to make it all about the money, but money is important – that is what makes the stables run.

I think we are at a cross roads of a lot of major decisions. Every week when you go to the Nations Cups, you see it again and again: How the format of four with a drop score is really, really exciting. It keeps people in the game when something goes wrong.

For example: In La Baule we had a thriller when Bosty fell off, but in the end France found themselves in the jump-off for the victory, and they ended up winning – who would have thought that an hour earlier?”

Rob Ehrens:

“We have to be really strict on keeping the Nations Cups’ status very high – it is a very interesting competition. Also in our small country, we feel the importance of this competition. When we go to places like La Baule or Rome, it gives a tremendous feeling of team spirit and that is what the sport is all about.

We have to make sure we keep it in this formula, and we have to make sure that we raise the prize money. Probably we also need to do something about the ranking points – maybe the riders could get more points if they go double clear? It is very important that we keep working on bringing the Nations Cups up.

This is my 13th year as a Chef d’Equipe for the seniors in Holland. What we saw in the past, was that there were many changes and not in a positive way. We made a lot of mistakes in the past: Starting with eight countries, going back to ten – not good enough, going back to eight. Constant changes must be banned – you need one situation!

For example, we have to make the rules very clear to everybody. Four riders starting with the drop score, that has been for a hundred years and everybody knows that – that is clear. If I look into the results for a LGCT, I get confused – I don’t know what is happening anymore. Our biggest mission should be to make the format of the Nations Cups very clear and simple to understand – once and for all. I believe that at the moment we have a great format!

I had the riders for La Baule picked out very early, because the riders needed to know early enough to be able to make a good plan for themselves and their horses. For me, it is not difficult to get the riders into the team and I am happy with that.”

 


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson

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