Spanish contender withdraws from FEI presidential race

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Javier Revuelta del Peral
Javier Revuelta del Peral

The Spanish contender for the FEI presidency has withdrawn from the race, asserting that the process has been eroded with what he has labelled irregularities.

Javier Revuelta del Peral said he had opted to withdraw his candidacy rather than challenge aspects of the election process before the FEI Tribunal and possibly even the courts.

That, he said, could potentially be damaging to the image of horse sport, and he had chosen instead to withdraw his nomination.

His decision leaves five European candidates in the race to replace Princess Haya, who is stepping down next month after eight years in the role.

The remaining candidates are, in order of their received nominations, Pierre Genecand, of Switzerland; Ulf Helgstrand, of Denmark; John McEwen, of Britain; Pierre Durand, of France; and Ingmar De Vos, of Belgium, who is currently serving as FEI secretary general.

Revuelta, in a statement explaining his decision, said he had voiced his concerns on several occasions over the election process, including at the General Assembly of the European Equestrian Federation.

The process, he asserted, was being eroded by a series of events.

He was critical that the current FEI secretary general was also one of the candidates.

“I have absolutely nothing against Ingmar De Vos as a person or as the secretary general,” Revuelta explained.

“However, as a candidate himself, that breaks all the principles of fairness in the process,” he said.

“From my point of view, Mr de Vos should have resigned as secretary general at exactly the time he declared as a candidate.”

Revuelta, a lawyer for the Spanish Government, suggested the situation presented a potential conflict of interest.

“I expressed these feelings to Ingmar De Vos during WEG in Caen, a day after he announced his candidacy.”

Revuelta, 57, also voiced his concerns over the composition of the independent advisory committee appointed to oversee the election.

He said such a committee was essential to good governance of the process, but it should have been put in place ​​before the start of the election period.

Revuelta also expressed the view that the committee’s independence was compromised by the fact that one of its members, the incumbent president, Princess Haya, had played a role in the hiring of De Vos as secretary general.

He was critical of its decision to seek a report from an outside law firm to “justify and defend the position of a particular candidate” (understood to relate to the possibility of De Vos serving as both secretary general and president.)

“For this reason alone, in my opinion, the impartiality of the commission is damaged,” Revuelta said.

He noted that all candidates received a letter from the FEI, which included the Rules of Conduct for candidates, on October 7.

He said he saw such rules as a necessity, but expressed the view that they should have been laid down before the acceptance of any presidential candidates.

“Again, the FEI has acted, in my opinion, very late on this topic. It is simply unacceptable that these rules were issued a month after the closing date for nominations.”

Revuelta noted that De Vos had now expressed the view that the presidency should be a paid position.

He said he agreed with De Vos’s view that “the chairman of the FEI should be open to all suitable candidates and not just volunteers who can afford it”.

However, the Spaniard said that if the presidency was to become a paid position, the question needed to be addressed in a considered fashion by national federations following a thorough examination of the reasons.

Revuelta said his concerns left with him two choices: withdraw his candidacy or seek to formally challenge the issues that concerned him.

He said he had chosen to withdraw in order to prevent potential damage to the image of the sport.

“I do not want to damage the image of our sport in front of third-party institutions such as the International Olympic Committee.”

He continued: “I cannot act against my principles, and be complicit in a process that I feel is wrong and that does not meet minimum democratic principles of independence, transparency and equal opportunities for all candidates.

“Accordingly, I have notified the FEI of my decision to withdraw my candidacy.”

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