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“This goes too far” – stakeholders give their feedback on FEI’s suggested rule changes for 2024

Wednesday, 25 October 2023


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The FEI Hybrid General Assembly 2023 takes place in Mexico City (MEX) from 18 to 21 November and the relevant meeting documents including the proposed rule changes to the FEI General Regulations, FEI Veterinary Regulations and discipline rules – that will be voted on during the last day of the GA – are now available online. 

“The General Assembly is a great opportunity to evaluate where we stand globally as a sport, while allowing us to look ahead and create our roadmap for the future together. With six disciplines and 136 National Member Federations, we are a diverse and inclusive community and it is crucial we have a solid platform to discuss and decide on matters at the heart of our sport,” FEI President Ingmar de Vos and FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said in their welcome on the FEI website designated for the FEI Hybrid General Assembly 2023.

The first draft of the extensive list of this year’s proposed rule changes was published in July, giving national federations seven weeks to review the proposals and submit their feedback to the FEI. Now the final drafts, which will be voted on in November in Mexico City, have been published, along with the feedback received. 

The FEI Hybrid General Assembly is restricted to national federations, stakeholders and special guests and is by invitation only – with each national federation having one vote. 

FEI General Regulations 

Proposed changes to the FEI General Regulations include Key Event Requirements, the FEI Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions, the FEI Safeguarding Policy Against Harassment and Abuse, Integrity/Ethics matters, as well as social media policies for athletes and FEI officials – the two latter topics sparking a lot of feedback from some of the biggest national federations. 

Safeguarding Policy

Following a recommendation from FEI’s external lawyer, the FEI has suggested “(…) to make some changes to the FEI Safeguarding Policy, including to clarify the scope of the FEI’s obligation to act in cases where the FEI is satisfied that the conduct (although technically a (potential) breach of the Policy) does not pose a risk of harm in the context of equestrian sport (...)” – a proposal that the German federation in its feedback described as “a clear cutback”.

The IEOC (International Eventing Officials Club) stated: "The FEI has a history of not taking action against athletes or other individuals who have engaged in conduct that breaches the Policy, even where there is a risk of harm in the context of equestrian sport, and we fear that this proposed rule revision will allow the FEI to shirk responsibility in even more cases."

Social Media Policy 

The proposed social media policies for athletes and FEI officials have received a lot of feedback from several national federations. Taking a clear stance, the EEF (European Equestrian Federation) pointed out that: “Policing the social media is not an FEI Rules matter. The FEI cannot simply become a regulator of equestrian-sport related social media separately and without taking into consideration the principles of freedom of speech and relevant EU legislation (and maybe other jurisdictions as well).” 

Following the various feedback, the FEI has now proposed to have one social media policy that will apply to anyone – including but not limited to athletes, officials, accredited persons, FEI representatives (FEI board members, FEI committee members, FEI headquarters staff, etc), organisers, support personnel (coaches, trainers, horse owners, grooms, stewards, chefs d’equipe, team staff, etc), and persons responsible. 

Clarifications and amendments have also been made to the suggested policy, and the FEI has produced a FAQ document to give more clarity and concrete examples. 

Integrity/Ethics matters 

FEI’s proposed expansion to available tools in Integrity/Ethics matters received complete opposition by some of their biggest national federations. The FEI proposal read: “The FEI may at any stage make a written demand (Demand) to an Applicable Person to provide the FEI and/or the Integrity Unit with any information, record, article or thing in their possession or control that the FEI reasonably believes may evidence or lead to the discovery of evidence of a non-doping violation. The Applicable Person shall furnish such record or information immediately, where practical to do so, or within such other time as may be set by the FEI and/or the Integrity Unit. Each Applicable Person waives and forfeits any rights, defences and privileges provided by any law in any jurisdiction to withhold any information, record, article or thing requested in a Demand.” 

The Belgian federation simply commented: “This goes too far. We oppose. This is a violation of the human rights.” Other federations echoed them – the Germans stating how they “(…) strictly oppose this proposal as in our view this is a clear violation of the nemo tenetur principle and an infrigement of human rights as protected by the European Convention of human rights.”

With the Dutch and Swiss federations opposing FEI’s proposal as well, the Swedish federation made their point in stating how: “As an accused you have the right not to present evidence against yourself and it is essential in criminal cases, it is the prosecutor who must prove guilt, not the accused who must prove innocence.” The US federation shared its view as well, pointing out that: "Concerns have been raised to our Federation regarding whether right to privacy and whether appropriate checks and balances are in place to ensure no misuse or abuse of this right to Demand."

Despite seven heavyweight national federations and the IEOC clearly opposing the proposal, the FEI has stuck to their initial wording – commenting that: “In order to have the necessary tools to gather information and evidence to legally prosecute cases, it is an important element to have such provisions. We therefore suggest to maintain the initial proposal.” 

All proposed changes to FEI General Regulations can be found here.

Jumping Rules

Changes proposed to the FEI Jumping Rules include, among other topics, scores under Table A, eliminations, the minimum/maximum prize money required for CSIs and CSIOs for 2024 and the qualification procedure for the World and Continental Championships. 

All proposed changes to FEI Jumping Rules can be found here.

Veterinary Regulations 

Proposed changes to the FEI Veterinary Regulations circle around biosecurity and stable conditions at FEI events, with focus on securing sufficient air quality and space for the horses – and include a proposed ban on cross-ties in stable aisles, as well as a cleaning and disinfection protocol, plus sanctions for violations of the FEI Veterinary Regulations. As an example, it is suggested that falsification of a horse’s temperature record should lead to disqualification and a report to the FEI Veterinary Department. 

All proposed changes to FEI Veterinary Regulations can be found here.  

FEI Internal Regulations 

In the proposed changes to the Internal Regulations of the FEI, the EEF together with national federations from Austria, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Sweden highlighted the importance of youth – suggesting a mandatory youth representative to be added to each FEI Discipline Committee, which the FEI rejected. 

“In order to recognise the importance of youth for our sport, we propose to add a mandatory youth expert to each FEI Discipline Committee,” was the suggestion from the EEF and the five NFs. “Such expert, regardless of age, shall be an experienced person who is particularly involved in the sport at youth level.”

In their initial response to the proposal, the FEI wrote: “The FEI Board acknowledged the significant relevance of youth, which represent the future of the equestrian sport, as well as the need to keep on working around a range of youth initiatives. However, the FEI Board agreed that populating a specific seat in the Discipline Committees by a youth representative was not the best way of tackling this topic and many questions were raised by this proposal, e.g. what is the definition of a youth representative? Instead, the FEI Board is of the opinion that youth related topics can be efficiently covered through current Article 6.7 of the Internal Regulations which established that “Youth shall be the competence of Discipline Committees and each Discipline Committee shall have Youth as a mandatory Agenda item for each meeting”.“

In response to FEI’s initial rejection, the British national federation followed up, stating how they did not believe that the FEI Board feedback went far enough in this area. The German, Italian and Swedish federation jointly pointed out how: “In order to improve the handling of undisputedly important matters and meet the challenges the equestrian sport is faced with, the FEI needs to show a greater openness to make changes in the Federation‘s system.” The feedback from the NFs continued: “It is natural that the creation of a new position will raise questions. These questions need to be addressed and solved. The system proposed by the EEF and several NFs works perfectly fine on a national level. We are therefore confident that all questions arising from this matter can in fact be answered. The mere fact that not all questions have been fully answered is not a convincing reason to just stick to the current system.” 

Following this feedback – instead of the proposed addition of a mandatory youth representative – the final wording of the rule, to be voted on at the 2023 General Assembly, reads as follows: “Each Discipline Committee shall be composed of the Chair and five (5) other members with proven knowledge and experience (such as but not limited to Officials, Athletes, Organisers, Chefs d’Equipe, trainers, owners, grooms, a member with knowledge of youth matters) in the relevant Discipline. An Athlete representative must be a member of each Discipline Committee, although the Athlete representative may not serve as Chair or Deputy Chair during their term in this capacity.” 

All proposed changes for FEI Internal Regulations can be found here.


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