FEI Defends Decision to Allocate Almost All World Cup Starting Places to Europe, Others May be Invited If Any Places Unfilled

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Jan. 7, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) on Thursday defended its decision to allocate to Europe 15 of the 18 starting places at this year’s dressage World Cup Final but said a non-league athlete could “potentially” go if there is an unfilled spot.

The decision by the FEI Dressage Committee to change the rules, according to the official response, was because “every angle needed to be explored to ensure a top quality starting field” at the Final in Gothenburg, Sweden the first week of April.

So the committee decided to eliminate three places–for non-league, extra starting place and home athlete–and award them all to Western Europe that already had nine spots reserved, plus two for Central Europe and the defending champion, Isabell Werth of Germany. The remaining places were two for North America of Canada and the United States and one for the Pacific region of Australia and New Zealand.

The changes are specific to the current World Cup series only and were adopted as emergency measures specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lengthy response by the FEI was made to a Jan. 4 report by dressage-news.com detailing the changes that appeared to be unknown to several national federations.

The current committee is made up of six members, all Europeans. The FEI said that George Williams of the U.S. participated in the meeting though he was no longer a member as his term had just expired.

George said in a separate comment to dressage-news.com: “I have no comment as while I was part of the initial discussions I was not part of the final discussion and decision on this issue.”

Among those unaware of the changes until questioned by dressage-news.com was Yvonne Losos De Muñiz of the non-league nation of the Dominican Republic who competed at the 2018 and 2019 World Cup Finals as well as the 2016 Olympics and is a Pan American Games medalist.

She had made it known she intended to compete at Wellington’s Global Dressage Festival hosting three World Cup qualifiers this winter with the goal of earning a start at Gothenburg.

The FEI response specified that approval of the dressage committee recommendation was not given by the FEI Board until Dec. 16, two days before the governing body closed for the annual holiday period of two weeks until Jan. 4, and not Dec. 6 as incorrectly given on the FEI Internet site.

The FEI explained the sequence of events beginning with the Dressage Committee meeting in early December: “The World Cup Rules for the 2020/2021 season were discussed at length, specifically around the Western European League (WEL) as that is the league in which qualifiers were most seriously impacted by the pandemic after the Pacific League which had no qualifiers at all. It was agreed that every angle needed to be explored to ensure a top quality starting field at the Finals in Gothenburg.

“The recommendation from the Dressage Committee was that the three starting places (home athlete, non-league athlete and FEI extra starting place) should be reallocated to the WEL.

“The view of the Committee was that not all allocated starting places would be filled, potentially leaving room for a non-league athlete to compete at the Finals if able to travel. In addition, as Patrik Kittel was already qualified, there was less need to maintain the home athlete slot.”

Changes were made internally to the rules, it said, still subject to FEI Board approval. The revisions were discussed by the FEI Board Dec. 15 and formal approval on Dec. 16.

“The community was informed that changes had been made to these Rules on 17 December as part of the general wrap-up on Board Resolutions via an NF News, which goes to all National Federations, organizations with which the FEI has a Memorandum of Understanding–including the IDRC (International Dressage Riders Club)–and other stakeholders,” the FEI said.

The IDRC is headed up by Isabell Werth, newly elected to the post.

The Dec. 17 news release dealt with several championships but there was no reference to the World Cup Final.

The latest available FEI National Federation Update is dated Dec. 15, 2020, distributed before the FEI board approved the World Cup changes.

Addition to earlier version of this report. The FEI confirmed that George Williams of the United States participated in the meeting of the Dressage Committee though his term had expired but had been invited to provide continuity.)