Session 4: FEI Championships Review

Session 4: FEI Championships Review (parts 1 and 2)
Tuesday, 30 April, 9:00 – 12:00

FEI Deputy Legal Director Áine Power introduced the opening session of day two with a presentation on the current status of the FEI Championships bidding process and the Championship calendar. This includes World Championships every four years for Olympic disciplines and every two years for non-Olympic disciplines, as well as European Championships every two years for all disciplines and yearly Championships for Youth and Young Horses. In 2024, there will be a total of 28 FEI Championships. It was acknowledged that the relatively low number of bids for major FEI Championships indicates that there are some issues with the current FEI Championships model that might need to be addressed.

She pointed out the differences between the bidding processes for minor and major Championships, including allocation, host agreements, and FEI HQ involvement. In addition to this, direct dialogue between the FEI, National Federations (NFs), and future host cities might occur to explore potential bids, more in line with the IOC system.

The different stages of the FEI Bidding process were then explained, including Review of Bids, Host Agreement finalisation, allocation, preparation and planning, and delivery of the Championships. The new FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG)/World Championships bidding model was then explained. This offers flexibility to OCs to choose between organising multi- or single-discipline Championships, each with its own pros and cons regarding complexity, funding, costs, and schedules among others. The role of the FEI HQ and its different departments on Championships delivery was then explained, followed by the involvement, level of support, and specific role of NFs.

According to the data presented, the number of bids has remained relatively consistent over the last decade across all disciplines, although it was flagged up that there are still no hosts for next year’s Jumping, Eventing, and Para Dressage FEI European Championships. The subsequent section covered the requirements to bid for an FEI Championship in terms of hosting fee, prize money, Officials, Athletes, NFs and FEI delegations, along with sport-specific and broadcasting requirements.

The final part of the presentation detailed the opportunities for Organising Committees (OC) hosting an FEI Championship, including FEI and Longines contributions, sponsorship, entry fees, and other income prospects.

In the second part of the session, an open table was conducted by FEI Games Operations Director Tim Hadaway then led a panel discussion and Q&A session with delegates. The panellists were FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus, Italian Equestrian Federation (FISE) Secretary General Simone Perillo, Wellington International President Michael Stone, Global Equestrian Group Chief Operating Officer Casper Cassøe Krüth, and Longines CSIO St Gallen President Nayla Stössel.

The discussion focused on five key topics:

Why do we need Championships? Are Championship formats optimal?
Simone Perillo highlighted that European and World Championships are fundamental for NFs as a development tool for team sport. He underlined how Italy’s hosting of the FEI Eventing and Driving European Championship 2022 in Pratoni del Vivaro benefitted the city with a historical Olympic venue being completely revamped. He suggested that prize money for championships should be higher than regular competitions. According to Ralph Straus, the main value of Championships for the FEI is the opportunity to promote the sport through storytelling, social media, and broadcasting.

From the audience, the general consensus was that Championships are vital for equestrian sport and NFs. The best athletes want to participate not for the money but for the honour of representing their countries. Also, the importance of team building was highlighted, even if Championships are not Olympic qualifiers, especially for the competitive future of younger athletes.

What drives interest in hosting Championships?
Casper Cassøe Krüth stated that the main driver for hosting Herning 2022 was the love of the sport with the goal of organising the best World Championships ever, and he thanked the city for its support. Lars Lundov, Sport Event Denmark Director, confirmed the huge success for both the city and the country as part of a national sport event strategy and that they would love to host the World Championships again in the future. Nayla Stössel confirmed that the European Equestrian Federation (EEF) is willing to be more active and collaborate with both the FEI and potential organisers to secure successful European Championships bids in the future.

Delegates highlighted the importance of events being profitable and the necessity to explore new ways to share costs between involved stakeholders to ensure the future viability of the sport.

Additional requirements and costs
Michael Stone opened the discussion, stating that accommodation and meals as well as broadcasting are big extra costs that could be shared. Simone Perillo commented that while the WEG concept is fantastic, with all the disciplines together, it is economically unsustainable, but it’s critical to keep the value of team sport alive. He proposed a complete reversal of the economic model to avoid equestrian becoming an individual sport.

FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez suggested capping the number of participants by introducing quotas or qualification could be an option to lower costs. Comments from the floor included that minor championships are absolutely necessary in smaller confederations, but some flexibility for developing countries in terms of requirements could help reduce the costs.

Commercial aspects and income
Ralph Straus pointed out that broadcasting has evolved considerably, with reduced investment from broadcasters. The prerequisite to improve uptake from broadcasters is to have a high-quality product, and the FEI and Longines are investing to make the sport more attractive and also for the general public to engage with the sport. Regarding broadcasting requirements, Ralph Straus explained that these can be flexible and that FEI maintains the rights to ensure that FEI competitions are broadcast internationally as possible. Nayla Stössel suggested that OCs and sponsors can work together from the early stages to bid for a sports event, but there must be commercial potential. Casper Cassøe Krüth pointed out that the Longines contribution is key, but it can also bring challenges when negotiating with other sponsors.

Bid process – encouraging or discouraging
Nayla Stössel opened the final topic, remarking that the EEF is willing to be more proactive and encourage NFs and OCs to bid for FEI Championships, but also said that the process can be very rigid and flexibility in some aspects could help boost the number of bids. Simone Perillo highlighted that a bidding process is key to guarantee transparency, and at the same time, some aspects such as broadcasting could benefit some flexibility and serious revision of the conditions should lead to a fundamental change in the process.

To close the session, delegates requested a long-term plan for major FEI Championships as the number one tool to show equestrian sport to the world. A transfer of knowledge between former and future hosts would allow bidders to work together to develop more comprehensive and cost-effective bids.

Aine Power explained that the next steps would be to report back to the FEI Board at the June in person meeting with a strategy to be developed for presentation to the FEI Board at its November 2024 Board Meeting during the FEI General Assembly.

Áine Power - FEI Deputy Legal Director
Ralph Straus - FEI Commercial Director
Simone Perillo - Secretary General, Italian Equestrian Federation (FISE)
Michael Stone - President Wellington International (WI)
Casper Cassøe Krüth - Chief Operating Officer, Global Equestrian Group
Nayla Stössel - President, Longines CSIO St. Gallen

♦ Moderator: Tim Hadaway - Director Games Operations Department

Documents Library - Session 4
Panellists' biographies (pdf)
Presentation (pdf)