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Cancellation of the 2021 European Championships in jumping causes discussion: “It is unacceptable to do this without truly trying to find a solution"

Friday, 15 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 two last days, we have shared some of the opinions on the cancellation of the 2021 European Championships in jumping. In the third part of this series of articles, we speak with heavy weights like Austria’s Max Kühner, Great Britain’s Peter Charles, German Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker as well as Turkey’s up and coming Derin Demirsoy. 

 

Max Kühner – Austria: “I don’t see the point of killing hope at such an early stage”

“For many riders – myself included – cancelling the European Championships means that there won’t be any major championships during the next two years. The number of European riders competing at the Olympics is not that high. 

To do a championship, we need our horses to be in the right age group and it is sad to see this prolonged break end some careers. Even more so, it is sad for the whole sport – which is driven by hope. I don’t see the point of killing hope at such an early stage. 

A championship works as an aim and a target; it is what we riders train for, buy horses for, do shows to qualify for. Having two championships run in the same year would have meant a huge amount of hope for so many, because someone going to the Olympics could have opened a door for someone else to go to the Europeans. Our owners and sponsors will do a lot for the sport, but where is our common goal now? 

I fully accept the possible financial issues behind the decision – but I do believe that an alternative solution would have been possible to find. When it comes to the dates, I think that changes could have been possible if a decision had been made at this stage when the 2020 and 2021 calendars are anyhow thrown up in the air. 

Cancelling now is like letting all the air out of the balloon. For me personally, it is unacceptable to do this without truly trying to find a solution. There would still have been enough time to explore options. If we could have seen the FEI trying to do that, then maybe it would have been more acceptable if at a later point there is a decision to cancel. At this moment, no one knows how the whole situation will play out.

Now, hope is gone and that is never good.”

 

Peter Charles – Great Britain: “The FEI has now put our sport in a more depressed state than it has to be”

“The FEI will normally never reverse a decision, but we have to ask if they have not put showjumping at a big disadvantage with this cancellation? With their decision, the FEI has made the same cut for all the Olympic disciplines – yet jumping is in a completely different position than the others. Jumping is by far the biggest discipline within the FEI, we are the ones that make equestrian sport work and pay not only large sums to the FEI but also to our national federations. They lump together all the disciplines and when circumstances or organisers face difficulties, problems are magnified due to the large scale of the event. It’s way beyond time that we had showjumping operating its own championships, which would make it more attractive for future venues, and certainly encourage organisers to take them on. Showjumping is well able to survive on its own as the LGCT and the Rolex Grand Slam tours have easily proved. 

No real in-depth consultation has gone into this. We’re certainly entitled to an independent in-depth review as to why their decision to cancel and on what grounds? What real steps did the FEI take to save the championship? Did they try to explore every avenue on alternative dates and different countries’ venues? Did they even consider letting the showjumping go alone?  We should all be asking for proper answers here for once, as there seems to have been no real consultation with even the strongest national federations – nor the riders, that are all affected by this decision. 

The FEI has now put our sport in a more depressed state than it has to be. If the Olympic Games end up being cancelled, which is a 50/50 possibility at this stage, we are looking at two years without a championship. For riders, owners, sponsors and all our hard working staff who look to the ultimate end product to be jumping for medals, we just can’t let that happen. 

When the FEI states that they cannot offer a level playing field to all countries, this is absolutely not correct. What they are doing is denying new and younger horse-and-rider combinations a chance. I have been European Champion myself – both individually and with my team – and it’s a fantastic honour that lasts for life. To make a decision to take this opportunity away from horses and riders at this early stage is not acceptable in my opinion. This is to big an opportunity to disregard with well over a year to go. We all remember Martin on the podium last year, how many stories and emotions to get him there, the heartache of seeing Ben leading then a simple mistake, to the absolute jubilation of Jos! 

To have two major championships in 2021 after the terrible year everyone is currently experiencing should be looked on as a great opportunity to fight back and showcase the sport better than ever! And I sincerely believe and would say to the FEI that if you want, you can do better than this.”

 

Otto Becker – German Chef d’Equipe: “I would have been happy if the European Championships could have taken place next year”

“To be able to say much about the decision the FEI made to cancel the European Championships next year, we need to know all the aspects – and I don’t. It might have been the organisers in Budapest or that the sponsors didn’t want to be part of it anymore. I really don’t know and without having all the background info I can only say so much.

A while ago, some of the chef d’equipes had an unofficial talk and our first reaction was that it would be too much with both the European Championships and the Olympic Games in the same year. However, after I looked closer into the dates, which European countries had qualified with teams for the Olympics and not – as well as other aspects, I thought it could work very well and wrote an email about this to the chef d’equipes I had talked with. Some countries aren’t qualified for the Olympics at all, some riders have several horses and we have younger riders that could get a chance – this was all part of my considerations. If the organising committee would have accepted that some of the very best riders might not compete at the Europeans next year, I think it could have become a great event anyhow.

From my point of view, I would have been happy if the European Championships could have taken place next year. However, this must have been a difficult decision to make and as I don’t know all the aspects, I can’t be critical.” 

 

Derin Demirsoy – Turkey: “I think many aspects have been overlooked in the decision to cancel”

“I think the European Championships in 2021 would have been very important for the development of the countries in the EEF Nations Cup series – or division 2 as we previously knew it. Even though the levels are different at the championships, it encourages you to strengthen yourself to get better and to reach your goals. 

Especially coming from a 2nd division country such as Turkey, I find the Europeans crucial for the level of sport to increase and also for the growth of the sport. If you take away the European Championship, you also take away the initiative of jumping the Nations Cup in division 2 – unless you have a really good chance to qualify for division 1 of course. In my opinion, the cancellation of the Europeans will also work against the whole idea of growing and strengthening the Nations Cup series. There are so many other shows to choose from, that without the championships as a final bait and team motivator I think riders would prioritise differently.

I think that the big and strong countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Netherlands have enough horses and riders to do both championships and maybe if they prioritize the Olympics, then they do the Europeans with another team – and I don’t want to say B-team because it’s still an A-team compared to most other countries. That would in my opinion decrease the difference between the top end nations and let’s say the lower ranked ones, and actually create an even more level playing field – the opposite of what is being argued. If anything, the sport would be on more equal terms. 

At the end of the day, there are also a lot of European nations not going to the Olympics with teams – it’s not like everyone has the chance to compete there. With only three riders per team – it’s a chance for a few, not for many. 

I think many aspects have been overlooked in the decision to cancel, and I believe that there are many solutions that have not yet been considered. The Europeans 2021 should definitely be open for further discussion instead of giving up on it. 

Personally, I have been working on my top horse for three years now to bring him up to this level and he is finally there. While the Olympic qualifiers were too early for us, we planned towards the Europeans 2021 when he’s the right age and at the level required. The costs of keeping the horse until this stage of his career is quite high, you also turn down offers along the way to keep it for this specific goal – and I know I am not alone in doing so, many riders face this difficult choice to keep their horse for a championship or selling it and cashing in. Since these are huge investments, I don’t think giving up on the European Championships a year ahead is the best idea – the FEI should have been more considerate towards riders and owners.”

 

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