The FEI discipline of jumping is considering a new Event Classification System which could be fully implemented by 2017 following a pilot project.
The Event Classification System (ECS) concept was raised by FEI Jumping Committee chair John Madden at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, this week.
The current classification of FEI Jumping Events is based solely on the level of prize money, which does not encourage Organising Committees to invest in infrastructure, media and sponsor improvement. The Jumping Committee believes strongly that a more comprehensive evaluation of events is needed in order to offer equal opportunities to all, to ensure quality, and to regulate the use of wildcards.
The assets of an ECS would be the independent evaluation of events based on objective and measurable standards, taking into account the concerns of all stakeholders. It could enable the FEI to identify strengths and weaknesses of events clearly and to encourage event development.
An additional benefit of the ECS should be to reward excellence. Competition for licenses to fill the slots available on the calendar would equalise worldwide standards and contribute to controlling event quality.
Events not meeting the minimum requirements for their star level would receive a lower score for the event’s evaluation which could result in the event dropping down one or more star levels. However, the ECS would include a provision for arbitration to determine whether a particular issue was beyond an Organiser’s control and whether it was deemed serious enough to warrant relegation of the event to a lower star level.
In relation to the FEI calendar, the ECS would offer a free market, supported by clear and understandable data and would provide NFs and Organisers with a better ability to choose their schedule. Competition between events should be allowed and dates should be free, with the exception of the Olympic and Pan-American Games, the FEI World and Continental Championships, the FEI World Cup Final and possibly some events categorised as Majors.
The proposed introduction of an Event Classification System was followed by lengthy and healthy debate in which National Federationss, Organisers, representatives of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) and the International Jumping Owners Club took part. Strong support for the project was expressed and resulted in a debate on details relating to the type of objective and subjective criteria chosen for the evaluation, data collection, the individuals involved, transparency, regional implications, and costs.
Emile Hendrix (NED NF) commented that it would be positive to have more professional evaluation of shows and pointed out that federations would be interested to know how dramatic the changes linked to this new system would be and what cost implications this would have.
Peter Cooke (AUS NF) acknowledged that this was an excellent concept but urged the FEI Jumping Committee to always keep in mind regional specificities. The Chair of the Owners Club Christian Baillet insisted that transparency and communication were important in order to avoid the negative effects on event partners and the media should an event be ranked lower than anticipated. Ulf Helgstrand (DEN NF) insisted on the importance of the proper evaluation of the event’s infrastructure.
“I see the Event Classification System as a cornerstone that will bring up many solutions and I’m truly passionate about it,” Madden said.
“It shouldn’t be looked at in a threatening way, it would not be a tool to downgrade our shows, but a valuable solution to categorise our products. A lot of hard work is now needed but I see it as an investment for many years. We need to keep our CSIOs healthy and strong and alive.
“We have excellence here and we have all the potential to maximise the appeal of the great sport we have. We are unified by one thing, the love and the passion for the horse,” Madden said.
• Marco Fusté, director of Jumping at the ESP NF, event organiser, and member of the FEI Jumping Committee, presented an overview of the existing invitation systems for 3, 4 and 5* Jumping Events. Currently there are two separate systems – one for 5* events and one for 3 and 4*. The FEI Jumping Committee put forward two options for discussion: to maintain separate systems; and to have a single unified system.
Representatives from 12 NFs, Organisers, and the IJRC expressed different points of view. The biggest point of discussion was wildcards, their number, whether their ownership should sit with the Organising Committee or the FEI, the criteria for the basis on which they are issued, and the involvement of NFs.
Wiveka Lundh (SWE NF), commented that Sweden was very lucky to have one of their riders, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, as the world’s number one on the Rolex Rankings, and the country had four other riders in the top 100. The sport in Sweden could continue developing only if invitations issued to Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and unused by him were returned to the NF.
Terrance Millar of Canada agreed that invitations were hard to come by and he would be in favour of having a higher number of wildcards available through Organisers and the FEI. It would help NFs from all parts of the world and would allow Organisers to have global representation in their starting field. Representatives of the Australian and Saudi NFs were fully in agreement.
It was agreed that the invitation system should always be fair, transparent, and flexible giving athletes equal opportunity to reach the next level. NFs must have control of the entries of their athletes and substitution capabilities when named invitees are not available. The Organising Committee’s wildcards must always be limited; issued under clear and transparent rules, equal for all and stated in the Event Schedule and closely monitored by the FEI.
• IJRC committee member Francois Mathy Jr did a presentation on the Rolex Rankings. It was generally agreed that the current system worked well as it was based on sound criteria, was easy to understand, and easy to calculate. The Rolex Rankings are updated monthly and provide useful information for the media and general public. It was, however, felt that the current system was too static and did not provide enough flexibility for lower-ranked athletes to move up the list. Another weakness was the fact that the current points system was based on prize money alone and did not take into account the technical difficulty of the competition.
NFs, Organisers, and representatives of the IJRC expressed different points of view on the way forward, and especially on integrating technical criteria and prize money, and on managing wildcards, while keeping the system fair and transparent and encouraging good horse management practices. Since the Rolex Rankings may be closely linked to the ECS, it was acknowledged that it was too early to discuss finer details. Delegates were reassured that before any changes to the current system are made, a number of simulations will be carried out to establish their effectiveness. All changes to the rankings system will be made with the agreement of the IJRC.
The Jumping Committee thanked the participants for their broad feedback and valuable suggestions and acknowledged that it felt empowered to proceed with further work on the proposed ECS prior to the FEI General Assembly in November.
The chairman of the FEI Jumping Committee John Madden concluded the proceedings of the second day by thanking everyone for their valuable input, encouraging participants to think not only of the short term issues but to keep an open mind on the challenges identified. “This is the end of the live forum, but the debate, the discussion, will continue on online,” he said.