With the FEI Sports Forum behind us, let’s talk about sex

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Discipline chairmen talk Olympic and FEI competition formats at the FEI Sports Forum today.
Discipline chairmen talk Olympic and FEI competition formats at the FEI Sports Forum.

The last time I looked, a solid majority of horse riders and competitors were women.

That surely means that most of the spending decisions within horse sport are made by women: what farrier to use, what feed to buy, what competitions to enter.

So, when the enthusiastic FEI train-spotters among us tuned in to FEI TV to watch the important session devoted to Olympic reform during this month’s Sports Forum, they may have noticed the male domination of the top table.

Indeed, the panel for this crucial session was a veritable sea of Y chromosomes. It did not escape the attention of some on social media.

This male domination is similarly reflected in the make-up of the all-powerful FEI Bureau.

A look at the bureau membership on the FEI website shows that, of the 18 members listed, three are women.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of mandatory quotas, or “positive discrimination” (if indeed such a thing exists) to right such gender imbalances.

I am sure these 15 men and three women are dedicated to improving the lot of horse sport and its millions of participants. And it should be acknowledged that the line-up of men filling the top table at the FEI Sports Forum session on Olympic reform were there because of their roles, not their gender.

However, what intrigues me are the deeper undercurrents within horse sport – in which women dominate to a huge extent at the grassroots level – that delivers a top tier of administrators who are mostly men.

It is, for me, easier to understand in a sport in which revenues are dominated by the men’s game – the likes of football and rugby – but it is harder to understand in horse sport, which trumpets the fact that men and women compete against each other on a level footing. Horse sport also makes rather a lot of the fact that it has a great many women who participate.

I’m going to speculate here that the ratio of women on each rung of the sporting administration ladder falls away as we climb, until we get to the top where men predominate.

Why is it? Is it even a problem? Does it reflect an “old guard” mentality in some sectors of horse sport? Are the men better qualified to do the job? Or do women have other things to do?

Perhaps they’re too busy riding their horses.

One thought on “With the FEI Sports Forum behind us, let’s talk about sex

  • April 27, 2016 at 9:15 am
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    the last sentence of this article summarize the ‘horse ladies’=too busy enjoying riding

    Reply

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