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

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The European Equestrian Federation (EEF) is concerned that the sport of jumping is developing in a direction where it might become unaffordable, and accessible only to those with big funds. The FEI-approved invitation system for the Global Champions Tour (GCT) and the Global Champions League (GCL) as well as a proposed raise in the entry fees for showing at CSI events in Europe, are two of the factors that make the EEF worried that the jumping sport in the future will be for the rich and wealthy only.

FEI-approved Global Champions Tour and Global Champions League invitation systems

Over the past years, there has been a dialogue between the EEF Board as well as an EEF Working Group on the one side and the FEI Jumping Director as well as the Chair of the FEI Jumping Committee on the other side to find a satisfactory agreement for a worldwide invitation system for all CSI five-, four-, three- and two-star shows. Based on this work the following invitation system was introduced:

  • 60% of the invitations come directly from the FEI world ranking list in descending order
  • 20% of the invitations are reserved for home riders and three to four FEI wild cards
  • 20% of the invitations are reserved for the organizers themselves (many are pay cards)

However, this system has not been applied for the GCT and GCL events. In the FEI-approved GCT rules for the 2017 season, the invitation system is based on four groups of athletes and looks as follows:

  • Group 1 consists of 30% of the number of athletes participating, and will be individual athletes taken in descending order from the Longines FEI rankings
  • Group 2 consists of 30% of the number of athletes participating, and will be GCL team athletes taken from the Longines FEI rankings top 250 as of August 31 of the immediately preceding year (maximum 1 per team)
  • Group 3 consists of 10% of the number of athletes participating, with one FEI wild card as well as home athletes selected by the host national federation
  • Group 4 consists of 30% of the number of athletes participating selected by the organizing committee. The invitations in this group can only be used to invite GCL team athletes so that each team participating in the GCL event taking place during the GCT event has three team athletes. It is not obligatory that the athletes be chosen from the Longines FEI rankings.

The EEF illustrates how the invitation system for the GCT and the GCL events will work by numbers, stating that 15 riders will be invited to ride from Group 1 while five will be invited from Group 3 in addition to the one rider that gets the FEI wild card. Group 2 and 4 will be the privilege of those riders on a GCL team, as 20 teams of three riders each are invited to a GCT/GCL event – of which two can compete in the GCL team event – totalling a group of 40 riders. According to the EEF, this means that 60 % of the riders must be on a GCL team in order to get invited for a GCT and only 40 % – the riders from Group 1 and 3 – can come based on performance and without paying.

To compete in the GCL, riders and/or sponsors must pay an entry fee of 2 million Euro for one season. The prize money for both the GCL and the GCT 2017-season is a staggering 22 million Euro, accompanied by the opportunity to earn a huge amount of world ranking points.

Meanwhile, the FEI and its Commercial Department is without sponsor for their own flagship-series – the Nations Cup – for the 2017 outdoor season. The Nations Cup-series future will be up for debate at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne next month, and the commercial challenges the FEI experiences related to finding sponsors for the series will be one of the issues on the agenda.

Harmonizing the entry fees worldwide

The EEF also points towards another factor that could make the sport even more expensive than it already is, as the FEI has put forward a proposal from the Alliance of Jumping Organisers to its National Federations to harmonize the entry fees worldwide. According to the EEF, that would mean that entry fees in Europe could become the double of what they are now.

Today, the entry fees in Europe is a fixed sum per horse. However, the suggested proposal is to set the entry fee to a percentage of the prize money that can be won at the show or per class. This is similar to the American entry fee system.

In Europe, riders currently pay an average of 400 Euro per horse at a two-star show. Calculations based on the new proposal from the Alliance of Jumping Organisers show that the entry fee, with the maximum prize money, can be doubled up to 1200 Euro per horse at a two-star show and close to 1500 Euro at a three-star show.

The EEF states that it does not accept the proposal. In its counter-proposal, EEF requires the fees to remain moderate as before at two, three and four star shows in Europe pointing towards the following factors:

“In Europe, the system works from bottom to top. Competitions serve as platforms for professional riders and breeders to school young horses to higher level. They are important places to present horses to potential buyers.

In Europe, the lower level competitions are an important ladder for young riders to start collecting ranking points and prove themselves for their NF’s as serious candidates for representing their country. Very few of these young riders, breeders or professional traders have such a wealthy background as the new FEI’s proposition requires.

Equestrian sport is already really expensive. It is naïve to think that in today´s equestrian sport only talent counts. Rider needs excellent horses and working relation with owners, breeders and sponsors. Still, FEI should enable every rider to have a reasonable chance to pursue its goal as top athlete. If we move at all fronts towards the image of a super expensive sport, available only for few, we will soon lose our credibility as a serious sport and there is a clear danger that the sport cannot grow and the breeding and trading will dry up.

There are more shows than ever and new show organisers who produce several shows yearly. That is a clear indication that there are healthy business opportunities available with the current model.

Standardized rules serve their purpose when they make things and processes better and develop the sport. But harmonizing the system that has proven its value over the years and is still successful, into a system less favourable for the equestrian sport and its development in Europe, just for the sake of harmonization is not acceptable. Europe dominates the equestrian sport and should decide how the system is developed.” [1]


The EEF is now mobilising, and has summoned a meeting that will take place today in Bern. They hope that the riders and other stakeholders actively will engage themselves in these important issues prior to the FEI Sports Forum in mid-April. There the future of the FEI Nations Cup, the invitation system as well as CSI/CSIO requirements and entry fees will be among the issues to be debated.


[1] “The FEI is an association of federations and it is a service organisation for its member countries: • 81% of the international shows are organized in Europe • 84% of the jumping horses registered in the FEI are from Europe • 79% of FEI registered jumping riders are from Europe (not counting the large number of foreign riders based and riding in Europe).”

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