Acronyms and abbreviations drive me crazy. We’re not talking Dance Around The Arena Naked kind of crazy, but if I ever developed a facial tick, I have no doubt that acronyms and their ilk would be to blame.
To be strictly correct, I’m talking about abbreviations, contractions, acronyms and initialisms.
Which makes me hate them even more.
This obsessive dislike becomes a major problem when you start writing about the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU).
An ECIU sounds more like an engine management system in a car than an agency that investigates any potential wrongdoing in the world of horse sport. Whoever came up with the name is unlikely to get a job as a Disney imagineer anytime soon. It’s awful. Or, to use the modern-day jargon, #awful.
Surely, the FEI could have come up with something punchier? To me, the Sport Horse Integrity Team has a nice ring to it, but I’m sure the staid old FEI would rule it out on the basis of its acronym. Do you see what trouble they cause?
Why do I hate these contractions so much? It goes back to my years in journalism, where people would use acronyms requiring an FBI investigation to determine what they represented.
Who gives a FIG? Well, for a starter, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) does.
Being an acronym chaser is a bit like being a storm chaser in the US. It’s dangerous, unpredictable work.
Take, for example, a press release last July from one of my favourite charities, World Horse Welfare.
It had joined forces with other groups to produce a guide to safeguarding horses from the perils of dehydration while travelling.
It declared that the guide has been developed after extensive research and consultation by the groups, which included the FVE and FEEVA.
The FVE is the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, in case you didn’t know.
I then used Google to check out FEEVA, and arrived at http://www.feeva.co.uk/, the website for what is billed as Scotland’s top female tribute show. I imagine they know a lot about dehydration in horses, but probably not as much as the Federation of European Equine Veterinary Associations.
So, take it from me, acronyms can spell trouble. Which brings me back to the ECIU, working for the FEI, investigating the UAE.
Last March, the all-powerful FEI Bureau provisionally suspended the UAE following an investigation by the world governing body into what it called major horse welfare issues and non-compliance with the rules in endurance.
This didn’t come out of the blue, of course. The FEI and UAE had been writing to each other over these problems. A month before the suspension was improsed, the FEI had warned the UAE in a letter that this was a possible outcome.
In the week leading up to the FEI Bureau meeting which resulted in the suspension, Britain’s Daily Telegraph published a story that cast doubts over the veracity of results recorded for a dozen or so endurance races in the UAE. It was found that slabs of results appeared to mirror those of previous races staged in the region.
It was hardly surprising that social media was abuzz with speculation that these races may not have taken place at all.
But, for the FEI Bureau, this news had just broken and it had no formal evidence on which it could rightly act. It imposed the provisional suspension based on the matters it had previously been discussing with the UAE.
The controversy around the so-called phantom races was instead referred to the ECIU for investigation.
The UAE clearly didn’t think much of the suspension, so lodged an appeal. It later withdrew it and opted to sit down with the FEI to work out a solution, the details of which were released this week. At the same time the suspension was lifted.
All the while, the ECIU inquiry has been ongoing. One of the conditions the FEI imposed in allowing the UAE back to the negotiating table was that it fully cooperate – and this included the ECIU probe.
We learnt this week that the ECIU had completed its “detailed report” and presented it to the FEI.
The FEI stressed that the allegations dealt with by the report were not taken into account when the FEI Bureau imposed the suspension. These issues were dealt with independently, it said, but provisions have been included in the agreement to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
It confirmed that that Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) cooperated fully with the inquiry and the report was currently being reviewed by the FEI.
A file would be submitted to the FEI Tribunal for further action, it said, in what is a pretty clear indication the world governing body has at least prima facie evidence of some form of wrongdoing.
The FEI continued: “Sanctions will be taken against any FEI officials found to be involved. In addition, the FEI will annul all duplicated results and review any connected results.”
The Emirates federation had authorised sanctions against any organisers and EEF staff found to be involved, the FEI said.
It said the EEF was restructuring its organisational policies to ensure that “similar events” cannot occur again. It will put rules in place for all future FEI events under which either the national federation or the organising committee must provide all equipment, including the timing system.
There are still clearly many revelations to come over the “phantom” races.
Apparently, relevant sections of the report will be included in a file to go to the FEI Tribunal.
So, will the ECIU’s report be released? “At this stage the report is confidential,” an FEI spokeswoman said.
This is probably the convention. I’m not even sure how many reports the ECIU has prepared for the FEI since its inception, and I have certainly never seen one.
One imagines that large chunks of it will be traversed when the FEI Tribunal eventually releases its decision (or decisions) on the matters brought before it. That is likely to provide a clear enough picture, though not a complete one.
It seems we will get some sense of the scale of it all when the FEI annuls the results in question, which may or may not be limited to the dozen or so events identified in the media.
We don’t know a lot, but I think we can assume a couple of things.
The FEI would not have lifted the suspension had serious questions remained over these “phantom” results and how they came about. It must have digested the ECIU report thoroughly enough to be sure it understood all the issues involved.
I very much doubt the suspension would have been lifted until the FEI was satisfied the same thing couldn’t happen again.
You don’t have to be a genius to realise that the headlines aren’t going to be good when more details are finally revealed. Best to get them over with as soon as possible, I would think.
At least it’s now likely to be resolved without getting as far as the all-powerful Court of Arbitration for Sport – but that’s another acronym altogether.