All systems go for new jumping teams event

Luciana Diniz and Fit For Fun 13 on their victory lap.
Luciana Diniz, with Fit For Fun 13 on their victory lap after being crowned LGCT champions for 2015, is among riders looking forward to the new Global Champions League team competition next year . © Stefano Grasso/LGCT

The FEI has confirmed that horses and riders will be able to compete in the new team-based Global Champions League (GCL) without fear of sanction under its rules.

The FEI’s position was announced last week, with horse sports governing body saying “No athlete or horse can be suspended or sanctioned because of their participation in a competition organised by the Global Champions League.” It followed the decision of the Belgian Competition Authority on July 27, relating to articles 113(4)-(6) of the FEI’s General Regulations

The GCL said the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) had ordered the FEI to communicate the decision by August 31, following the suspension of the FEI’s “exclusivity clause”, allowing the launch of GCL in 2016.

Global Champions League co-owner Frank McCourt.
Global Champions League co-owner Frank McCourt.

“Because the FEI failed to communicate in accordance with the decision of the BCA, the BCA ordered the FEI to do so, or face a penalty fine,” a spokesman for the GCL said.

In June this year GCL filed a complaint with the BCA, alleging the FEI breached competition law rules by using its rules to prevent riders from competing in events not approved by the FEI by imposing a so-called “exclusivity clause”.  In its interim measures ruling, the BCA ordered the FEI to suspend its exclusivity clause with regard to the GCL pending the investigation into the GCL’s complaint, thus allowing the GCL to go ahead in 2016.

The FEI challenged and requested the suspension of the interim measures. In October, the Court of Appeal in Brussels rejected the request and upheld the earlier decision by the BCA. The FEI claimed its credibility would be undermined if GCL went ahead but in its ruling the Court of Appeal rejected this and stated: “Any undermining of the credibility of the FEI as the sport’s governing body is not a consequence of the decision, but a risk to which the FEI has exposed itself by engaging in, in addition to its governing function, the marketing of equestrian competitions.”

In announcing the suspension of articles 113(4)-(6) of its General Regulations in regard to the GCL, the FEI said the suspension would apply until:

  1. a decision of the Belgian Competition Authority closing the case by a decision not to proceed with the case, by a settlement decision or by a decision of the Competition College;
  2. a decision of the Competition College terminating the suspension by application of the review procedure organised in point (5) of dictum of the decision of 27 July 2015, or
  3. the annulment of that decision of 27 July 2015 by a decision of the Court of Appeal of Brussels.

The GCL said it is committed to the highest standards of horse welfare and integrity of competition. Earlier Court decisions rejected the FEI’s claim that its exclusivity rule was the only way to protect horse welfare and integrity of competition.

The GCL will see Olympic and World Champions in action every Friday at 15 Longines Global Champions Tour destinations around the world. Two riders from each team will compete over two rounds, with scores based on penalties and time.

Top riders have predicted the innovative new format will inject fresh excitement for fans and TV audiences worldwide as team competition creates new rivalries and tactical alliances.

The world’s current two highest ranked riders, Scott Brash and Kent Farrington, have both spoken about how positive the development is for the sport and how the GCL will open a new era for show jumping.

World No.1 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash said he believed the introduction of the new team competition would be incredibly exciting and positive for the sport.

“With the League coming into play in 2016 we will see another step forward for show jumping, and it will add a new and unique dimension to our sport with riders able to be part of a team with people they’d never be able to join forces with normally.”

Farrington, currently ranked world No.2, said the Global Champions Tour had brought the sport “to new heights never seen before. I think the Global Champions League is the next step in his dream and in the evolution of the sport”.

“The League is the next step in helping show jumping become a sport much the same as Formula 1, golf, and tennis. I look forward to being involved and enjoying the ride along the way.”

Luciana Diniz, the new LGCT 2015 champion, also spoke of the positive effect on the sport. “For me as an individual rider I never have a team, so having a team together with me will be a very nice feeling and a very good thing for the sport.”

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