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IJRC President Kevin Staut: “We try to make the voice of the riders heard”

Monday, 25 February 2019
Interview

Photo © IJRC/Fabio Petroni Kevin Staut and Steve Guerdat at the IJRC General Assembly in Geneva. Photo © IJRC/Fabio Petroni.

With an increased awareness towards the political aspects of showjumping, the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) is becoming an important part of the athletes’ every-day life. Over the last years, the Club has used its influence and voice on important issues such as entry fees, the CSI invitation system as well as the ranking list formula – which the IJRC owns the rights to. 

Under the leadership of Kevin Staut (FRA), who was elected president of the Club at the end of 2017, the IJRC has been injected with a good dose of gentlemanism combined with civilised outspokenness – probably a useful combination when sport meets politics. 

Staut took over the presidency after Christina Liebherr (SUI), and when meeting WoSJ to talk about the Club’s work he jokes that the reason he did so was that no one else wanted to. “There was really no other candidate, so I was elected. It was at a time where both Steve Guerdat and I had been a lot in the media because of the discussion around the CSI invitation system, so I guess it was natural for me to step into the role,” Staut says. 

“On my side, I really wanted the communication to improve,” Staut says about the goals he set himself when taking over the presidency. “I think it was important for the Club to get an active rider, that is present at the international shows almost every weekend, into the presidency. I believe it helps the level of communication. The shows are an important common meeting ground with the FEI representatives, the officials, other riders – where we, formally or informally, can exchange opinions about the sport. I try to meet the Club’s director Eleonora as often as possible and do a lot of face-to-face work which enables us to move faster forwards to our decisions.”

During the relatively loud discussions around entry fees and the invitation system, that stole many headlines back in 2017, the IJRC came across as a strong opposition to other stakeholders in the sport – including the FEI. However, Staut is clear that the focus must remain on the Club’s main message: “What the IJRC is trying to do, is to protect the sport – the professionals in it and the younger generation of riders,” he says. “There is no reason that there should be a fight between the FEI and the IJRC. The FEI have their interests to protect, we have ours – and then it is about communicating those in the best possible way. I think it is important to highlight that the Club is something different than the FEI. We are an association for the riders, the FEI is a governing political body. Hence, our way to work is different. We try to work directly and efficiently, making the decision process short whereas their way of working naturally is more bureaucratic.”

“That being said, the door is always open for the IJRC at the FEI Headquarters,” Staut says. “With the IJRC actively present in the FEI General Assembly, the FEI Sports Forum, the European Equestrian Federation Board as well as the FEI Jumping Committee, FEI executive board and FEI Bureau through the athlete representative – we try to make the voice of the riders heard on all arenas.”

Photo © IJRC/Fabio Petroni Kevin Staut with IJRC Director Eleonora Ottaviani at the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in Geneva. Photo © IJRC/Fabio Petroni.

Currently, the IJRC works on several important issues – the majority of which affect all riders in their every-day life. 

“The formula of the ranking list is naturally very important to us, as we own the rights to that,” Staut says. “Our board member Francois Mathy Jr. is in charge of that subject. The ranking list is closely connected to the invitation system, which remains another key issue for us.”

“When it comes to the invitation system, I think a lot could be improved by how we communicate on the issue. Everybody speaks in terms of 60-20-20% but when referring to it this way it becomes difficult to understand what the discussion is really about. We have to find a way to communicate so that everybody gets what we are actually talking about. What it boils down to is: Do we want a so-called pay-card system, so you can use money and wealth to ride the high-level shows – or do we try to protect the core of our sport, the professional riders and the real sportsmen and women? Our point of view is that the maximum of invitation percentage should be given to participants that have the capacity to do the competitions at that show, because they are riding good and not because they have the most money. The IJRC wants to regulate the invitation system to try to protect the future of our sport, to keep it open for all. At the same time, we can’t close our eyes to the organisers’ needs. They have to finance their shows, to make it work,” Staut says. 

Another issue that the Club has a lot of resources on are the contamination cases. “There is something profoundly wrong with the system we currently have,” Staut says when speaking about the subject. “Firstly, the IJRC finds it hard to accept that involuntary breaches of the FEI’s EADCM Regulations – which is the case when there is contamination – should be judged the same as deliberate breaches. In these cases, we have to find a way to protect the athletes better – this is also important for the reputation of our sport. While we have seen several contamination cases where nature has been to blame for positive results, the issue also touches onto stable security. As we all know, at some shows security is at a zero – with no controls, even if it should be. To hold the riders accountable for a breach of the clean sport rules when breaches of stable security rules have no consequences, is hard to accept.”

“Secondly, what has been discussed a lot in regard to the contamination cases is the need of thresholds. Irrelevant concentrations stemming from contamination should not be considered a breach of the regulations,” Staut says. “The contamination issue is something we want increased awareness around, and ultimately a change in the regulations. The subject affects every single rider and should accordingly engage every single rider. Together, we need to get the FEI to realise that something is not right,” Staut says. 

Photo © IJRC/Fabio Petroni Kevin Staut addressing the audience at the IJRC General Assembly in Geneva. Photo © IJRC/Fabio Petroni.

Personally, Staut has plenty of opinion on the current state of the sport. Close to his heart, is to protect the very core of the sport and its most traditional concepts like the championships, the Nations Cups and the World Cup. “My personal opinion is that we need to make sure these shows have good enough sponsors and financial backing to make them attractive for the best riders in the world,” Staut says about securing their future. “And, while I don’t think we can bring back the drop score for the Olympic Games we need to prevent that it is taken out of our other team competitions at championships and Nations Cups. Look at the Global Champions League Play-Offs in Prague. They had three horse-and-rider combinations on each team, no drop score and in the final two out of six teams ended up being eliminated after their second pair was in the ring. We should ask ourselves if that is good sport? Another point of view in my opinion is also that the drop-score in team competitions is vital when considering the welfare of the horses.”

With the sport evolving rapidly, there is plenty that needs to be discussed between its different stakeholders but Staut also points out the positive changes. “I think what is really good about our sport at the moment is that we have a lot of investors and sponsors interested in it. There are many good shows, really good prize money – if you are at the highest level there is a chance to build a life on the sport. This was not possible before, you had to have something next to it – even at the highest level,” he says. 

The IJRC works for all the riders, at all levels and Staut encourages them to get involved. “Everybody has to contribute. Contact us if there is an issue you would like attention to. Give us a call, send us an e-mail, come up to me or other board members at a show. Get involved ahead of the decision making, rather than complaining after that the wrong decisions were made,” Staut says. 

 

___________________________________________

 

Founded in 1977, the IJRC’s mission is laid down as follows: 

 

The club strongly believes that the co-operation between riders, organizers and the federal body is the key to ensuring a high-level future for equestrian sport.

 

Among its aims, the club lists: 

 

·      Promotion of the image of show jumping;


·      Promotion of the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play;

·      Co-operation with the competent national authorities towards new norms and regulations;

·      Support for national and international associations and international show jumping organizers in all their efforts;

·      Putting the riders’ views in matters of rules and regulations before the governing body;

·      Protecting the image and interests of the riders who respect the above objectives.

 

___________________________________________

 

Find more information about the Club and its board here: ijrc.org

Contact the IJRC on: ijrc1977@gmail.com

 

 


Text © World of Showjumping 

Photos © IJRC/Fabio Petroni

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

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