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IJRC President Kevin Staut: “We have to try to improve ourselves as a community”

Tuesday, 12 January 2021
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"Riders, owners, organisers, the FEI – all combined we are like a big machinery and we have to try to improve ourselves as a community,” Kevin Staut says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

World of Showjumping spoke with Kevin Staut, President of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC), to learn more about the work the club did in 2020 to support the riders in the midst of a pandemic as well as about the journey ahead as 2021 gets underway.

“We are just a group of riders and we are all in the same situation –  we cannot help like a federation can,” Staut begins. “However, we try to protect the riders and I believe the most important tool we have in this regard is the invitation system. We have to make sure a maximum field of riders can go to shows and that there is meritocracy.”

Remedies during the pandemic

The IJRC owns the rights to the formula of the Longines Ranking. Hence, one of their priorities when the Covid-19 pandemic brought the sport to a sudden halt in March 2020 was to find a good solution for the ranking list – which also goes hand in hand with the invitation system as it determines which riders get to compete where.

“It took a lot of work to find the best way to manage the ranking list,” Staut explains. “We wanted to have a system where no one would lose points. However, as restrictions were gradually lifted some riders were lucky enough to show while others were not. Our opinion was that those able to compete also needed to be able to earn world ranking points. For sure, it was the case that it was the same group of riders competing at the few four- and five-star shows that took place while others could not get in. It was a difficult situation for everyone. We have had to compromise.”

“We also wanted to protect the riders from extra expenses when showing,” Staut continues  “We have tried to make sure that the organisers did not create extra fees. We are all in this together, but riders must be able to go to the shows and afford the entry fees.”

“Some of the international two- and three-star shows following the first lockdown were a huge mess,” Staut continues. “There were shows with 200 riders entered who had to qualify to jump the first ranking class, which again served as another qualifier for the Grand Prix. Many were out of a chance after the first day of jumping. There has been a lot to discuss; we had many meetings with the organisers. It was the first time that the IJRC was in such close contact with the organisers; it was a special year. However, when you start to think together, you get a wider view and find better solutions.”

“Other topics discussed with the organisers were the entry fees and the invitation rules for the two-star shows,” Staut says. “Many organisers of shows at this level have been struggling to find financing for their events with the new invitation rules. We spoke a lot with them about this. While the CSI invitation rules for the two-star events have been suspended for much of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they will be back in force from 1st of January 2021.”

“In 2020, we have definitely had discussions that we would not have had in a normal year,” Staut says. “For years, we have been focused on ourselves. As a rider, if you want to win, you fight alone with your team – but for the future of our sport, we all have to work together. This is a huge industry and the sport is intense. Riders, owners, organisers, the FEI – all combined we are like a big machinery and we have to try to improve ourselves as a community.”

World ranking formula

A hot issue in 2020 was how some riders earned both their world ranking points and Olympic ranking points in competitions that only had a handful of riders competing. “We discussed this and we want to have regulations so that there is a requirement for a minimum amount of riders in the ranking classes,” Staut tells about the IJRC’s opinion. “We have addressed the problem to the FEI and asked why they still allow events like these to take place after what happened at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. Our suggestion is to have a minimum of 30 riders actually participating, and not just 30 invited because it is easy to invite on ridiculous terms. We continue to focus on this issue.”

European Championships 2021

The FEI’s sudden decision to cancel the 2021 European Championships was another issue that the IJRC addressed during 2020. In October – after long discussions – the FEI reversed their decision and re-allocated the event to Ludger Beerbaum’s venue Riesenbeck International. “There are many riders who are not qualified for the Olympics and many countries have enough pairs to send to both events,” Staut explains. “There is a lot of work ahead for Ludger and his team, but we are very happy that the Europeans are back on the agenda: National federations, owners, riders and the IJRC were all very supportive of the re-allocation of the event instead of cancellation, and therefore we are all very proud to see it happening.”

Change is slow

“With complicated administrations and big institutions, change is slow and we are the first ones to get tired of it,” Staut points out. “But what can we do? We just have to continue to fight and to protect the sport the best we can. I understand that from the outside it might look as if the IJRC does not do so much, but I personally know how much we work. It is not a full-time job for us; we also have our own stables and companies to run.”

A lot to improve

“Anti-doping, contamination, the invitation system – we have a lot to improve,” Staut says when asked what the IJRC will be focusing on as the new year is underway. “We have to wait and see how the sport will be affected by the pandemic: If it will be the same sport we had before the crisis. In 2021, I believe that every federation will be working with the mindset that the Olympics are going to happen. From the IJRC’s perspective, we have to focus on normalising the ranking and we have to protect the invitation system. We know that there will be less shows and we cannot expect to go back to normal from one day to the next. Hence, we have to keep the conversation open.”

“In 2020, I think we had time to talk more than ever before and now we have a better routine for 2021,” Staut says. “We have to make the club closer and stronger. I believe we have to keep the riders better informed – also those who are not actively following. Last year also taught me how important it is to stay in contact with the organisers and to be part of their conversations. I know it is difficult, but we have to maintain the goals in the right direction. For sure there are many compromises to be made, but the situation could be much worse.”

Is the IJRC doing their best for riders at all CSI levels and not only for the top ranked ones? “We try to do the best for everyone,” Staut answers. “For example, the invitation system was made to protect the ones who are lower in the ranking. The same goes for the ranking system, and trying to keep the entry fees under control… I know what we are doing, and I am really proud to be a part of it. We try to be fair, but after all we are also only humans – for sure we make mistakes and for sure there is always more to get done. However, if you look at our annual general assembly in Geneva, I think it is clear to see that more riders should attend. Everyone has to care and be active. In the past, communication has not been our strongest point and we are still working on that, but riders can always come to us with their questions.”

“We have to ask ourselves what we can do to grow our sport, to make it more interesting while still make it more eco-friendly?” Staut says when looking towards the future. “In 2020, we have seen that the kilometres our horses have been travelling during a year probably are unnecessary. Also, many events spend a lot of money on constructions for only one weekend – we should focus on developing permanent venues instead. I believe that we should start to think about ways to make our sport better for the environment. As always, we have to protect the welfare of the horses and improve the image of our sport. I know these are a lot of words, but I think slowing down in 2020 has shown us the importance of more analysing and good communication as well as the true value of working together.”

 

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