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Cancellation of the 2021 European Championships in jumping causes discussion: “This decision is premature”

Saturday, 16 May 2020
European Championships in jumping 2021

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Over the three last days, we have shared some of the opinions on the cancellation of the 2021 European Championships in jumping. In the fourth and last part of this series of articles, we speak with Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya, Denmark’s Andreas Schou as well as future Swiss Chef d’Equipe Michel Sorg.

 

Sergio Alvarez Moya – Spain: “It’s surprising that the FEI doesn’t even mention the risk of the Olympics being cancelled”

“This decision is premature. When the FEI states that they have examined every possible option to try and save the European Championships in 2021, this is incorrect. What they have done is to shut the door to any kind of alternative, by saying that all organisers would face the same challenges of trying to host major championships so close to the Tokyo Games. How can the FEI be so certain of this when no one even got the chance to present an alternative? In Europe, there are permanent venues with world-class facilities that all could take on an event like this a year in advance. As to the financial part, I am sure there would be different options to look into – even from the FEI’s side, with reducing costs and fees for the organisers and prize money offered to the riders. However, there has been no will from the FEI’s side to try to discuss this with those who are actually affected – the riders. 

It's surprising that the FEI doesn’t even mention the risk of the Olympics being cancelled. As we all are familiar with, there has been discussions at the highest level in Japan about whether or not the Games can go ahead should not a vaccine be developed in time. That is a very realistic scenario, and something that should be considered. And if that’s the case, our next championship will be in 2022. How is that for motivation for investors and owners? This decision will harm the industry and is in my opinion a disaster. 

Furthermore, for the FEI to go out and state that they cannot offer a level playing field to all countries is also not a valid argument. We all know that the strongest nations have several horse-and-rider combinations to choose from, enough for both the Europeans and the Olympics. As I have said before, the Olympics will be an event for a limited group of European riders. Ten European nations are qualified with teams, and the number of competing riders per team has already been cut down to three. In comparison, we had fifteen nations competing with teams of four at the Europeans in Rotterdam in 2019 and seventeen in Gothenburg in 2017. The weaker nations don’t have a team qualified for the Olympics, so for them they would be represented with the strongest they have got – probably that would make it more level than ever. This is also an assessment that should be made by the chef d’equipes in consultation with their riders and not by the FEI. 

Riders at the highest level are used to having a full show calendar with plenty of demanding events throughout the year – the World Cup Finals, Aachen, then the Europeans, the Pan Ams, the WEG or the Olympics, then Calgary, the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona and in between all the other major events. This is about horse management and planning, which we indeed should be trusted to be capable of doing. Let the riders manage their horses and make the choices themselves. 

The FEI should focus on what is supposed to be their job; try to make the FEI European Championships possible – and let us do ours. 

At this stage, the FEI is making themselves less and less relevant to the athletes. They don’t even try to protect their own products such as championships, the World Cup series or the Nations Cup series. Even the world ranking is not important anymore because you can regardless of that get to ride on the LGCT-circuit if you get on a team, or at other five-star shows – and that’s what the riders prioritize because they have much more to offer than any FEI product. 

The FEI seems to forget that we are more than a sport. Riders make their living from this, and we need to have goals to present to keep investors and owners motivated. Now we might end up with our next target being the World Equestrian Games in 2022. It’s a real shame that the FEI is not doing what they can for the sport and the riders.”

 

Andreas Schou – Denmark: "The cancellation has a negative effect on the industry"

"When I first read the article with Sergio Alvarez Moya being worried about the European Championships 2021 possibly getting cancelled, I could honestly not even imagine this happening. For us in Denmark, as a small nation, it is – for various reasons – such a shame and the cancellation came as a shock. 

I find it hard to understand how the FEI argues that another date was impossible to find, or that the original dates were a problem to begin with. Many big nations have either a next rider in line, or the top riders have another horse.

Myself and our whole Danish team including the chef d'equipe are of course very disappointed about the cancellation. Especially in these strange times, we really had the Europeans 2021 as a big goal for next year. More importantly, many riders have invested a lot in very good young horses and those horses are now ready for a major championship. 

As the World Equestrian Games are meant to run in Denmark in 2022, the Europeans the year ahead would have been an important step on our way there – for both the horses and the riders to gather the experience needed. We had a good team in Rotterdam, but we dream of an even better one for the WEG on home soil and the Europeans were to be a build-up for that. We can only cross our fingers that most riders will be able to keep their potential championship horses. For some, the costs to keep the horses with no championship to aim for can lead to them choosing to sell now, whereas those who were planning to keep their horses for a championship to increase their value and then sell, now miss that opportunity. Therefore, the cancellation has a negative effect on the industry and both options result in a big blow ahead of the WEG 2022, as we only have a few combinations at this level. It is not only sad for the sport, but also for the business. Many of us earn our living producing horses; they are often sold for good prices after championships. Now, this opportunity to showcase them at the highest level has also been taken away from us.

Denmark has only qualified one individual spot for Tokyo, but if we consider the uncertainty of the situation and the worst case scenario of the Olympics getting cancelled too, we as a team can be faced with a two year break from a championship. For some horse owners, losing the chance of going to both the European Championship and the Olympic Games would simply be too risky.

In my opinion, FEI's decision to cancel the Europeans 2021 is going to set back the development of our sport in all of its aspects.”

 

Michel Sorg – Swiss Chef d’Equipe from 1st September 2020: "If we have no championships next year, there will still be other goals to reach for"

“The cancellation of the European Championships 2021 came as a bit of a surprise to me. Although I have not been involved in the chef d’equipes' informal talks about the timeline for the Europeans and the Olympics, as I will be Chef d’Equipe in three months, I am familiar with the fact that there are different opinions as to what would be the right solution. 

I think it would have been not so easy to field two teams for both the Europeans and the Olympics in such a short period, less than one month. It would have been a bit too much to ask to some riders and/or horses. But it would also have been an opportunity for more riders and/or horses to take part in a championship.

On the other hand, I totally understand the frustration for those European nations that are not qualified with teams for Tokyo. For them, this is a difficult situation as they are left with two years without a championship. 

From an organiser’s point of view, you also have to ask if it is ideal to have a European Championship without all the top horse-and-rider combinations present – which might end up being the case with many of them going to the Olympics. 

While I accept the cancellation, I don’t fully understand why the decision had to be taken at such an early stage. There is still more than a year to go, and a lot can still happen in the development of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are so many questions we don’t know the answers to yet. On the other hand, it might be that the organising committee needed clarification – the longer you wait, the bigger the financial impact. To work another six months on this and then cancel is also far from ideal. 

There is indeed still uncertainty surrounding the Olympic Games next year, and no one can say for sure what will happen – not even the best epidemiologists in the world. There is a saying that an optimist sees the glass as half full, the pessimist as half empty. I’m an optimist, and I try to think that this will get a positive outcome. Until there is other news, we prepare towards the Olympics. If the Games end up being cancelled it will of course be hugely disappointing, and it would be horrible for the sport – but it will be for reasons we all can understand. 

If we have no championships next year, there will still be other goals to reach for – like the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona and then we should all try to make that the best edition yet.”

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 



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