In 2019, the FEI wants to shake up all the equestrian competition circuits

Credit : Scoopdyga

Friday 06 October - 18h30 | Sébastien Roullier and Lucas Tracol, translated by Ian Clayton

In 2019, the FEI wants to shake up all the equestrian competition circuits

After announced reforms in Show Jumping, expect to see big changes to international Eventing in coming years. In 2019, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) is expected to put an end to its FEI Classics Series, revive the World Cup, and strengthen its Nations Cups. The organization is aiming to make its various disciplines both more accessible to the public and attractive for sponsors. Grand Prix takes a look at the planned changes. 

Created in 2008, the FEI Classics circuit will come to an end in 2018. Bringing together the six CCI 4*s currently in existence across the world (Badminton, Burghley, Adelaide, Lexington, Luhmühlen and Pau), the FEI series was intended to bring greater visibility and prize money to the biggest Eventing competitions on the planet. However, since the end of its contract with HSBC in 2013 in the midst of the financial crisis, the marketing division of the FEI has not succeeded in finding a new title sponsor. 

As with the Nations Cup circuit for Show Jumping, now benefiting from the sponsorship of Longines, one of the concerns encountered by the world governing body for equestrian sports is the risk of conflicting interests between potential new partners and those who already sponsor the six existing CCI 4*s. Indeed, given their international renown, Badminton, Burghley, Adélaïde, Lexington, Luhmühlen and Pau are already supported by more or less solid and generous sponsors.

“The FEI’s [sponsorship] difficulties are easy to understand,” explains Pascal Sayous, director of Centaure Events, the organizer of les Étoiles de Pau in France. “They tried to find a sponsor for the circuit but they weren’t able to because our competitions are big events with partners and exclusivity which limit the field of possibilities. That has been the main difficulty. Individually, each CCI 4* is holding its own in terms of attendance and resources,” he adds.

A New Nations Cup/World Cup

With that in mind, but also the fact that these CCI 4*s remain largely reserved for an elite group of top riders from a very limited number of countries, the FEI, wishing to show its support for the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 [which is focused in part on accessibility and universality in sport], is concentrating on opening the door to the elite level to more competitors and countries. That explains the programmed disappearance of the FEI Classics series, and the envisaged creation of a double Nations Cup/World Cup circuit. The FEI World Cup would thus be making its big return to Eventing, seven years after it was stopped. [Between 2003 and 2012, when it was in existence, the circuit was made up of CIC 3*-Ws.]

Selected by national federations, the riders and horses invited to participate in this Nations Cup/World Cup would likely face off along the lines of the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games, with a Dressage test and Show Jumping element at the 4* level, and a 3* cross-country, with the crucial question of its length remaining to be decided. Next year, the current CCI 4*s will become CCI 5*s, and the new format is also expected to be CIC 5*.

This fifth star, as well as the construction of a new and stronger series — more prestigious and universal than the current Nations Cup — should allow the FEI to offer potential sponsors a more attractive product. This objective has been clearly stated by its marketing department, which is focusing on highlighting the strong points of each discipline. In this vein, as with the Nations Cups and World Cups for Show Jumping, the new double circuit will finish every Fall with a big global Final in different locations each year.

A new private circuit of CCI4*s?

It remains to be seen which competitions will be part of this series, knowing that there is only one CICO or CCIO allocated per nation. This year, FEI Nations Cup Eventing, which concluded this weekend Boekelo, the Netherlands, had 10 stages originally programmed: Montelibretti, Italy (cancelled), Strzegom, Poland, Houghton Hall, Great Britain, Tattersalls, Ireland, Wiener Neustadt, Austria, The Plains, USA, Aachen, Germany, Le Pin-au-Haras, France,  Waregem, Belgium and Boekelo, the only stage featuring a long-format cross-country. In France,  Fontainebleau, whose CICO 3* was cancelled this year, Le Pin, which took advantage of that to get back its ‘Officiel de France’ competition, as well as Saumur could be legitimate contenders.

For its part, Pau plans to remain among the group of most elite and selective Eventing competitions in the world. Despite the disappearance of the FEI Classics brand, Pascal Sayous remains confident about the future of current CCI 4*s. “When it was title partner for our circuit, HSBC was delighted with our product. The end of the FEI Classics series doesn’t change too much. For now, we still don’t know what we’re going to be called. It’s going to be necessary to find a name. We already met on this topic and will try to continue to develop things intelligently. That could mean the birth of a private circuit, but between now and 2019 a lot of things can happen!” 

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