Sponsorship reshuffle as endurance reform plans outlined

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Efforts to resolve the problems in endurance are gathering pace, with the FEI announcing “concrete steps” to bring about change, including Dubai-sourced funding for the recently announced special task force.

Changes announced today include a sponsorship reshuffle affecting the upcoming FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games.

The FEI has provided more details over the special task force aimed at finding practical solutions to bring the endurance controversy to an end.

The issue has split the endurance riding community over drug infractions and welfare concerns in the sport centred on the FEI Group VII nations of Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar.

National federations on both sides of the Atlantic have raised the possibility of a breakaway group unless the FEI can rein in the problems, including what some view as the cavalier approach to endurance rules taken by some competitors and some officials.

The latest developments were agreed at a March 30 meeting between the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the FEI’s two vice-presidents, John McEwen and Pablo Mayorga, and its secretary general, Ingmar De Vos.

“Some additional but significant points were discussed to create a more equitable field of play and enhance the integrity of the Endurance discipline,” the FEI said in a statement.

During the talks, Sheikh Mohammed pointed out to the FEI that Meydan, his huge racing institution, was the regulator in Dubai for various equine-related matters and that so long as it remained a regulator it would be prudent for it to withdraw its sponsorship of the Games, set to begin in Normandy, France, in August.

However, in order not to disadvantage the Games organising committee and to ensure all financial obligations were met, the FEI Commercial Department had worked with the sheikh’s office to secure a replacement sponsor.

Sobha Group, a multinational, multiproduct group headquartered in Bangalore, India, has offered to take over the sponsorship, it said.

The company has significant developments and investments in India, the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Brunei and Tanzania.

It would assume all of the obligations of Meydan, the FEI said.

The acceptance of Sobha as a replacement for Meydan will be considered for formal approval by the Games board next Thursday.

The FEI said Meydan would instead sponsor the work of the FEI Endurance Task Force to enable it to create and implement the technical solutions necessary “to ensure fairness on the field of play at the 2014 Games in Normandy and beyond”.

Sheikh Mohammed also confirmed that he would facilitate through the FEI’s Commercial Department the provision of onsite hospitality facilities during the endurance competition day in Normandy so that all athletes could benefit from equal facilities.

The FEI also announced changes relating to commercial activities.

It said it was noted during the endurance conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, in February that commercial activities and sport needed to be clearly and formally separated.

For that reason, the Technical Committee and the Endurance Sports Department cannot be involved in any commercial activities and transactions.

They would now be the sole responsibility of the FEI Commercial Department led by Lisa Lazarus, it said.

“With regard to the officials, the FEI secretary general has already made it clear to the organisers of endurance events that the officials need to be informed about the conditions such as accommodation, transport, per diems and reimbursement of costs prior to the competition and that payments can only be made by the organising committee.

“Additionally, the FEI will look at the possibility of centralising these payments made by the organising committee of reimbursement of expenses and per diems in order to guarantee equal treatment of officials and to preserve their integrity.”

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