On Friday the FEI Nations Cup Top League kicks off in La Baule, France. The Top League will run over eight rounds; after La Baule the league moves on to Rome on the 25th of May, then to St. Gallen on the 1st of June, to Rotterdam on the 22nd of June before one of the biggest Nations Cups of all takes place in Aachen on the 5th of July. On the 13th of July the Top League moves on to Falsterbo in Sweden, before the last two rounds are held at Hickstead and in Dublin on the 20th of July and the 17th of August respectively. This year’s Top League will probably be used by many of the Chef d’Equipes to prepare their teams for the Olympic Games in London in August.
Last year Germany ended up on top of this prestigious series, while Denmark and – surprisingly – the US, that has been among the top three teams in 2010, 2009, 2006 and 2005, were relegated to the Promotional League. This year’s newcomers in the Top League are Sweden and Switzerland – who will fight against strong countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland and Belgium. All these nations, except for Ireland, are also qualified for the Olympics.
Over the last years Germany and France have dominated the series. In addition to last year’s victory Germany won in 2008, 2007 and 2006. France won in 2010, 2009, 2004 and 2003. Both the Netherlands and Great Britain has figured among the top three on numerous occasions. The Netherlands was second last year and in 2007, and in 2008 and 2006 they were third. Great Britain has been third on four occasions; last year, in 2010, 2005 and 2004. In 2008 they were second.
The points obtained by each team in each of the eight FEI Nations Cup Top League competitions are added together to establish the overall Top League classification at the end of each season. The following points are given to the eight best-placed FEI Nations Cup Top League teams in each Top League cmpetition: 1st 10, 2nd 7, 3rd 6, 4th 5, 5th 4, 6th 3, 7th 2 and 8th 1.
The two last placed teams in the overall standings at the end of each season will be relegated to their respective regional league of the FEI Nations Cup Promotional League. It remains to be seen if this will have any effect at all, as the FEI has stated that the current Nations Cup format will undergo a huge facelift. At last week’s Sports Forum, the FEI was delighted to announce that the Saudi Equestrian Fund will provide full financial support for the 2012 series and has also agreed to a five-year title sponsorship commencing next year – once a remodeling process has been finalized. The remodeling could mean a completely new look, and a farewell to the Nations Cup series as we now know it.