FEI presidential hopeful says competitions need a revamp

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Pierre Genecand
Pierre Genecand

The Swiss candidate for the presidency of the FEI says a revamp of major equestrian sporting events is essential to attract greater media coverage.

Pierre Genecand said he would encourage the FEI to create links with sports with a higher media profile, and suggested the organisation could learn from them.

“Without renouncing tradition, equestrian sports can learn a lot from their best practices,” said Genecand, who is one of six European candidates seeking the presidency.

The new president will be decided at a vote during the FEI General Assembly in Baku, Azerbaijan, next month, when Princess Haya steps down after eight years in the role.

“Reformatting of our series and championships is mandatory if we want to attract the media’s attention,” Genecand, 64, said.

“Our classes are too long and need to be more thrilling. We need to come up with new formulas and adapt them to TV formats.

“Greater efforts have to be made, including financial ones, into the broadcasting of our major events, continental and world championships.”

The sport, he said, would gain from a more media-savvy approach to its flagship events.

Genecand, who declared his intention to seek the role last April, and was subsequently nominated by the Swiss Equestrian Federation, described the current FEI competition calendar as too busy and confusing.

He pledged a “thorough restructuring” of the competition calendar of all FEI disciplines, if elected.

“FEI series and championships need to be reviewed, simplified and clarified.

“The FEI has to protect and stage the dates of continental and world championships. We have far too many series, sometimes conflicting.

“Clarification and simplification are essential for an improved visibility.”

He said it was event organisers who were subjected to taking maximum risks, especially financially.

“The FEI has to provide them with better guidance and support. It is down to the governing bodies to regulate the sport and make sure the dates are protected.

He talked of empowering continental federations in a close examination of the FEI’s governance and structure.

“The FEI works for the sport and for its 132 member-nations. Not the other way around.

“I would like to create of a pool of expertise where the FEI and national federations would share their experience, best practices and discuss potential issues.

“The FEI should provide continental and world championships with a team of highly skilled staff to help them organise the FEI’s flagship events. Those championships are the windows on our sport. The governing body must guarantee a proper execution of all Games.”

A greater representation of national federations within the FEI Bureau and/or FEI structures would prove very effective, he suggested.

“This could be achieved by adding more members or by reducing the duration of the mandates. Positions could rotate more often.”

Genecand, whose key platforms have been outlined in what he calls a Book of Intentions, suggested that communication between the FEI and national federations was somehow held back by the immensity of its current organisation and structure.

“An overhaul is needed to insert another level of hierarchy by empowering the continental federations,” he said.

“Continental federations would then become an effective relay between the FEI and their respective national federations.

“Continents would have to take on more responsibility in organising championships, sharing best practices and ensuring equal opportunities are given to national federations to sending riders to the top-level competitions.”

He expressed concern over last year’s downgrading of equestrian sports by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from category C to D, which meant less income for the FEI.

“The FEI cannot allow it to be downgraded again,” he said.

He noted that the IOC would next month be reviewing the standards of all Olympic sports.

“We have to be ready to face the challenge and protect our Olympic disciplines.”

Aside from costs, the IOC also considered the general interest and media exposure generated by the Olympic disciplines, he said.

“It appears clearly that urgent efforts on equestrian sports promotion on TV broadcasts need to be made.”

Genecand, who speaks five languages and splits his time between Switzerland, Argentina and Uruguay, said horse sport was an important industry worldwide and the FEI must lead it towards growth.

He said transparency of the FEI general budget was mandatory and it must seek new sources of income.

“The FEI cannot live on private donations sought by individuals. A long-term plan is vital for the governing body,” he said.

“Under the lead of the president who facilitates introductions, the commercial department of the FEI must seek to conclude fruitful partnerships with the industry.”

He pledged to put all his time and effort into serving the sport.

“I will make sure the FEI works together with all the national federations for a common future.

“I will help ensure the welfare of our horses and the respect of our rules and regulation by all, with no exceptions.

“I will fight to keep our three current disciplines in the Olympic family and to help all eight official disciplines to grow, worldwide. We need to make our sports accessible to all nations and regions.”

Genecand described the list of challenges ahead as long. “This is why it is crucial to unite and stand by our sport.

“It is time to forget any personal interests and act globally for the future of equestrian sports.”

He said, if elected, he would lead the FEI with impartiality and neutrality, and be an example of good-conduct.

Genecand said the FEI had started its modernisation under the guidance of previous presidents.

“We must now build on it. We should not renounce our traditions, but must accept that the world of sport is a competitive market evolving rapidly.

“I don’t want a revolution; I want an evolution towards a more modern sport,” he said.

“Being the FEI president is not a one-man show.

“A president needs to work with two experienced vice-presidents, an excellent secretary general and a dedicated staff of skilled specialists.

“A president has to provide the FEI with a free added value, with his inherent knowledge and expertise, his undivided time and making good use of his extensive network of decision-makers.

“He needs to interest and facilitate access to sponsors and then work closely with the commercial department to come up with tailor-made proposals.

“I will lead the FEI like a CEO towards success, without any personal interest.

“I will not tolerate any potential conflict of interests within the governing body to ensure impartial governance.”

Genecand said he intended to “remain 100 percent available to everybody.

“My doors will be open.”

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