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Henk Nooren: “We need to have equal chances for all at the high-level sport”

Monday, 06 November 2017
CSI Invitation System

Henk Nooren. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. Henk Nooren. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

At the FEI General Assembly in Montevideo later this month, the CSI invitation system once again is on the agenda after being brought back to the drawing board earlier this year. Although it seems that a reasonable solution has been found for the 2, 3 and 4* shows not all stakeholders are yet satisfied when it comes to the 5* events.

“When you can pay yourself into participating in a series of five-star shows it creates unequal chances to earn world ranking points,” Henk Nooren says. “We need to have equal chances for all at the high-level sport.”

For the past years, a number of stakeholders have worked together with the FEI to find a satisfactory agreement for the worldwide invitational systems for all CSIs. As a result of this work, an arrangement whereby nearly all international shows would have to use the following invitational system was introduced:

  • 60 % of invitations would follow the world ranking list in descending order
  • 20 % of invitations were for home riders (National Federations) and FEI wild cards
  • 20 % of invitations were for the event organizers (Organizing Committee)

However, this was all brought back to the drawing board following the FEI Sports Forum in April. A working group was established to have another look at the invitation system to find a solution all stakeholders could live with. “Thanks to the enormous upheaval that was made before, during and after the FEI Sport Forum in April, the FEI decided to uphold all the decisions and proposals and start renegotiating with the different stakeholders involved,” Nooren says. “A good solution has now been found for the 2, 3 and 4* shows. But, despite this great progress the future of the CSI5* shows remain unresolved.”

“Theoretically, the new proposal from the FEI looks good. It states that all CSI5* shows have to follow the 60-20-20% invitational system. However, the final proposal of Annex V to the FEI Jumping Rules presented by the FEI ahead of the General Assembly in Montevideo excludes “FEI-approved series” from this 60-20-20%-rule. The most important series with five-star shows on the agenda being the Nations Cup, World Cup and the Global Champions Tour/Global Champions League (GCT/GCL),” Nooren continues.

“It is a MoU between the FEI and the GCT/GCL signed in February 2017 that gives the GCT/GCL a privileged position labelling it as a series, which means the invitation rules have been explicitly approved by the FEI Bureau and do not fall under the 60/20/20%-system. The GCT/GCL concept states that 60 % of the riders have to be part of a GCL team and thus pay in order to compete, the entry fee being 2 000 000 euros per team per season,” Nooren explains. “30 % of invitations come directly from the world ranking list in descending order, and the remaining 10 % of invitations are for home riders.”

The GCT/GCL invitation system approved by the FEI is in Nooren’s – and many others’ – opinion an opening to pay for the opportunity to earn world ranking points, which again has a wider consequence: Riders rising on the world ranking as a consequence of paying their way into the five-star shows that offer the most amount of points. “We must all be aware of the connection between the world ranking list and the invitations to all the different star-level shows, as well as the enormous importance of the ranking list in order to select riders for World Championships, Olympic Games and other major championships,” Nooren says. “My opinion is that at the highest level of the sport it should not be possible for an athlete to pay to compete among and against the best, and through such payment get the chance to climb on the world ranking. Either you are selected because you belong among the world’s best, or you are not – we are the only Olympic sport where you can pay to compete at top level.”

“The qualification procedure for the 2020 Olympic Games will start on the 1st of January 2018. So, it is more important than ever that the sport allows for equal chances and a fair system for all riders, horses and horse-owners,” Nooren says. “Together, the National Federations, the FEI and its President must ensure equal chances for all athletes. It is their absolute duty to defend the sport and its future, and to place it above any deal the FEI may have closed with a national or international enterprise.”

“I also believe it is important to spot the difference between the FEI’s own series such as the FEI Nations Cup and the FEI World Cup. In the Nations Cup-series, the invitations are completely up to the National Federations: They decide who is representing their country in the different events. The invitational system of the World Cup is based on both the world ranking list and the participation system which applies to all sports represented in the Olympic Games. This allows riders from countries with only a small equestrian community to participate in such events, even when they are not in the top of the world ranking list. It is true that these are exceptions to a unified invitational system, however these two series defend the very ethos of the sport, as a sport and not as a business,” Nooren says. “The greatest difference between the Nations Cup, the World Cup and GCT/GCL is that the GCT/GCL is a commercial series, meaning that 60 % of the participants have to be part of a team – where it is paid 2 000 000 euros per team in order to compete.”

“At the same time, the FEI has to face its own statues. They read that all individual athletes and teams from different nations must be enabled to compete in international events under fair and even conditions,” Nooren says questioning whether this is the case.

Nooren is not the only one worried about the way the distribution of world ranking points will affect the core of the sport. Up for discussion at the International Jumping Riders Club’s General Assembly in Gothenburg in August, several top riders spoke out about the issue. And, with the world ranking list-formula being owned by the International Jumping Riders Club it is safe to say that the last word is yet to be said when it comes to the invitation system for the five-star shows. “The FEI only has the commercial rights to the world ranking list, the rights to the formula belongs to the IJRC,” Nooren explains. “At the IJRC General Assembly in August, it was unanimously decided that every CSI5* star show has to follow the 60-20-20%-rule in order to distribute ranking points. This regulation of the ranking points-distribution does not need the approval of the FEI General Assembly, because it is not the subject of FEI rules but fall under the agreement in the MoU made between the IJRC and FEI back in 2008. For the IJRC, it is important that the ranking points are distributed in a way that respects meritocracy. I support this fully,” Nooren concludes.


Want to learn more about this debate? Then follow the discussion from the beginning in our archive: 

The European Equestrian Federation mobilises against non-performance based invitation systems and increased entry fees

FEI Sports Forum 2017: The future of the Nations Cup, CSI invitation system, entry fees, dress codes and officials on the program

The launch of the 2017 LGCT/GCL season: “The future is upon us and it’s going to be different”

The Voice of the Riders: Paying to ride – invitation systems and entry fees

FEI hosts International Jumping Riders Club for meeting at HQ

IJRC meets FEI: “We aim to defend the values of our sport as we love it”

FEI Sports Forum 2017: To pay, not to pay or what to pay – that’s the question

IJRC News: IJRC at the FEI Sports Forum 2017

Stephan Conter in open letter to the FEI President: Ensure that everybody faces the same opportunities and challenges

Stephan Conter: “It’s time to put selfish intentions to the side”

FEI suspends 2017 CSI Invitation Rules

Working Group agrees on key recommendations on Jumping Invitation Rules and event requirements

USEF President Murray Kessler: “It needs to be pure at the top, otherwise it’s not sport”

IJRC General Assembly 2017: "It is our intention – and number one priority – to support the heart of our sport"


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