Eventing needs to explore ideas and prepare for change, delegates to the FEI Sports Forum were told.
The future shape of Eventing was on the agenda as delegates who have gathered in Switzerland pondered changes that may one day prove necessary to keep the discipline within the Olympic fold.
“Eventing is not new to change,” the chairman of the FEI Eventing Committee, Giuseppe della Chiesa, told delegates during the afternoon session.
“We have already undergone major changes relatively recently to accommodate the Olympic challenges of cost, space and complexity.
“As with the other Olympic disciplines, we are now proposing new ideas to meet the Agenda 2020 objectives. We need to explore ideas and be prepared to adapt if the time comes that we need to change.”
The former chief executive of Ascot Racecourse, Charles Barnett, had earlier opened the session with an overview of key findings from his independent review of Eventing in the context of the Olympic Games. It covered safety, risk management and widening the appeal of the sport from an on-site spectator and television-viewer perspective.
Barnett’s final research project, which will thoroughly review the safety aspects of the sport through detailed analysis from FEI competitions and national federations, will be delivered to the FEI in November of this year.
Several proposals were laid out during the session for Eventing, with the principle of harmonising with the proposals for Jumping and Dressage in order to develop a coherent Olympic Equestrian programme.
The positive aspects of the proposals were highlighted from the perspective of the International Olympic Committee’s core values of universality, excellence and spectator engagement, including more country flags for teams and emphasis on the value of team effort; shorter competitions with more exciting and open results; no extra competition days; improved qualification structure, culminating in the “Olympic dream” being more easily accessible to smaller nations.
The adverse aspects of these proposals were also made clear: less flags for individuals; the increased cost of the cross country, with courses for two levels; the best riders potentially not competing in team competition; and team members not starting if previous team-mates failed to finish.
Further points raised in this session included separating the FEI Classics 4* circuit (individuals) from the Olympic and championship circuit (teams), and increasing qualification requirements for participation on the 4* FEI Classics (individual) circuit.
Reviewing cross country penalties (refusals; knocking obstacle flags) and saddlery (cross country bits) was also raised, alongside considering the development of indoor arena Eventing, and looking closely at whether Eventing needed a globally recognisable descriptor to ensure the sport is easily understood by a mainstream audience.
Several discussions followed the Eventing session, with the Eventing Rider’s Association and the Australian, British, Dutch, German and Irish Equestrian Federations focusing on the strength of the cross country phase for audience impact, the need for consistent 3* or 4* Eventing, the team/individual split, and the importance of underlining the FEI’s “Olympic” equestrian athletes.
The FEI Eventing Committee highlighted that all points raised during the FEI Sports Forum 2015 would be further discussed in Open Forums taking place during 2015 at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, at the Olympic Groups F and G meeting at Boekolo, in the Netherlands, and at the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland.
Delegates at the Eventing session were urged to continue the discussions online at the dedicated FEI online platform.