Push to give Haya a third term as FEI president

FEI President Princess Haya.
FEI President Princess Haya.

Moves are afoot to engineer a third term for Princess Haya as president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

Under current rules, the president must stand stand down after two four-year terms.

Haya is currently serving her second term.

Britain’s Horse and Hound magazine has reported on its website that there are calls for a rule change to allow a third term.

It quotes an FEI spokesman as saying that regional group chairs had submitted “a formal unanimous request that the FEI statutes be modified so that the term of the president may include one additional four-year term”.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) chief executive Jim Ellis confirmed to Horsetalk that the issue of a third term had been aired.

“ESNZ is aware of the discussion held at the recent FEI Bureau meeting in Lausanne, which considered the potential of amending the statutes to allow for a third consecutive presidential term,” he said.

“ESNZ will consider its position and that of the Oceania Equestrian Federation when more formal documentation is received prior to the FEI General Assembly in November.”

Any proposed change allowing a third term would need to go to a vote before the  General Assembly in Montreaux, Switzerland, in November. This would allow Haya to stand for re-election the following year.

Princess Haya, who is married to the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, became president in 2006.

Her first term was not without controversy, particularly over a highly contentious move to relax rules around the residues of certain drugs in horses. Many federations saw the push as a bid to abandon the zero-tolerance policy that had long been in place.

A somewhat embarrassed FEI ultimately abandoned the push and the FEI has since firmly entrenched its Clean Sport policy.

Haya saw off two European challengers to win a second term as president in November 2010.

The very fact she faced challengers to her re-election showed a significant depth of opposition, most of it centered on the key equestrian nations of Europe.

The princess held several trump cards, among them her standing in the Olympic movement.

Her membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a not an automatic right that falls upon the FEI president. She is one of 15 presidents among 27 international Olympic sport federations elected to IOC membership by that group.

She has proved to be an effective advocate for equestrian sport at Olympic level.

Her connections extend well beyond the sporting sphere. Her international profile outshines those of pretty much any president of any international sporting body. Many nations value that profile.

She has been instrumental in obtaining high-value sponsorship deals for the FEI, including multimillion-dollar backing from the Saudi Equestrian Fund for the Nations Cup.

Sources suggests many nations have been impressed by Haya’s performance this term, with improvements in the operation of the FEI and her strong advocacy at Olympic level.

Nations, in pondering whether to support a third term for the president in November, may also be wondering who would be a fitting successor for Haya should she stand down in 2014, as required under current rules.

All factors would suggest the tide may be flowing strongly in favour of a third presidential term.

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