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Cancellation of the 2021 European Championships in jumping causes discussion: “I’m nervous of the road the sport is taking”

Wednesday, 13 May 2020
European Championships Jumping 2021

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Not everyone agrees with the FEI’s recent decision to call off the 2021 European Championships in jumping. With over one year to go to the championships, a number of chef d’equipes and riders are of the opinion that there would still be plenty of time to work on an alternative plan – while others are more uncertain as to what is realistic. 

Over the next days, we will share some of the opinions on the cancellation of the 2021 European Championships in jumping. First out is Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson as well as Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens. 

 

Cian O’Connor – Ireland: "The loser in all of this will be the youth – our sport’s future"

“It really upsets me to read about the cancellation of next year’s European Senior Showjumping Championships. At this very moment nobody can say with any degree of certainty that Tokyo will definitely go ahead and therefore I feel it imperative to ensure the organising of the European Championships. If Tokyo was cancelled it would mean we may still have our own continental Championships instead, rather than missing two consecutive major championships of 2020 and 2021.

If Tokyo does go ahead it is limited to qualified countries and only three riders from each nation are allowed to compete under the new rules (which us international riders were strongly against!). There are many countries with much more than three top combinations as well as a huge pool of talented younger riders coming through. Next year’s European Championship could be their time to shine and make a name for themselves to break through to the very top level. I’m nervous of the road the sport is taking. Already with only three per team at the Olympics and now the cancelling of a European Championship one year away, the loser in all of this will be the youth – our sport’s future.

The FEI’s mandate is to develop the sport. The European Championships, World Equestrian Games and the World Cup as well as the Nations Cups are meant to be the flagships of the FEI and their priority must be to protect, nurture and reinvent where necessary these majors rather than observing their appeal in decline. Olympic qualification at the European Championships and World Equestrian Games is the only draw the FEI has left to attract the best horse rider combinations bar the prestige of competing!!! Every business needs to be looked at retrospectively every 3-5 years to take stock of how they are performing and make changes where necessary. Sport is no different. What worked in 1979 may not be valid in 2020. A lack of consultation with informed stakeholders can have far reaching repercussions that have the unfortunate possibility of affecting all our livelihoods.

It must be said however that I am not privy to the internal parameters and reasoning that led to this decision to cancel next year’s Europeans. Indeed, many chef d'equipes, riders, owners etc heard about it for the first time here on World of Showjumping!”

 

Rob Ehrens – Dutch Chef d’Equipe: “I had no idea about this before the decision was announced”

“First of all, I want to point out that we must accept the difficulty of the current situation with the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. We are talking about a big number of casualties, and everyone’s health should always be a top priority. 

However, I believe that if you rush decisions you end up paying for it in the end. 

Equestrian sport is not a contact sport, so to keep a safe distance is easy. Therefore, I think our sport is in a special position. If the will is there, it should be possible to organise events. It is not possible to keep waiting too long – we should get going when we can still use the outdoors, indoors we will be faced with more issues.   

When it comes to the European Championships, there was a discussion with all the chef d’equipes. We thought there was a window to run it after the Tokyo Games. The FEI has argued that the number of capable horse-and-rider combinations for two major championships so close to each other is not high enough, which I think is not the case. We all know how high the level of our sport is at the moment; countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and Sweden – just to mention the top – would probably have no trouble putting together two teams. Fair enough, for one pair to do two major championships after each other – that is not wise. However, we are speaking about countries with the capacity to make a good enough team for both.

There is also still a lot of uncertainty around the Tokyo Games. To guarantee the safety of the participants from such a large number of nations will be a huge challenge. If the Games end up being cancelled, we will be missing a lot. Two years without a major championship can change the career of a horse, and affects the motivation of riders, owners and sponsors.

My biggest question with the whole decision is: Why did the FEI not consult all the national federations or the riders? I had no idea about this before the decision was announced.”

 

Peder Fredricson – Sweden: “I don’t think it would be impossible to find a solution for next year – if FEI was just willing to”

“There might be reasons behind this decision that we are unaware of, but spontaneously I don’t like the cancellation at all. We don’t need more events cancelled right now; we need things to look forward to.

If the decision comes from the organising committee itself, there might be other organisers out there willing to step up. We don’t need to host a jumping championship together with the other disciplines, which should make it easier.


The FEI states that they have to offer a level playing field to all eligible countries. To cancel the Europeans might be fair to the few countries with a very small number of horse-and-rider combinations that has qualified teams to the Olympics, but it is definitely not fair to the nations with several combinations to choose from where many never will get the chance to show off at a championship. In our sport, there are way bigger problems to think about than this!



Another aspect the FEI does not consider, is that there is still a lot of uncertainty around the Tokyo Olympics next year. It would be really sad if we now end up with two years without a championship due to the FEI’s decision to cancel the Europeans. As we already have the dates for the Olympics, it should be possible to organize the Europeans as far away from the Games as possible – to put it very late in the season. With a bit of time to the Europeans it should be possible to do both – not that the same horse should do both championships, but the fourth horse at the Olympics might not even start and could maybe then do the Europeans and some riders even have more than one horse for a championship.

We have managed to have the Europeans every second year until now, so I don’t think it would be impossible to find a solution for next year – if FEI was just willing to.”

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 

 



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