Sven Holmberg Quits FEI Posts, Levels Barrage at Leadership

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Sven Holmberg. Photo: © Jan Gyllensten

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Feb. 10–Sven Holmberg, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), on Thursday resigned as chairman of the Jumping Committee and from the powerful FEI Bureau citing “politics and power games” in the body that governs worldwide horse sports.

The USA’s John Madden of Cazenovia, New York, deputy chair of the Jumping Committee, takes over as acting chair immediately. The position will be filled on a permanent basis at the General Assembly in November.

“I have spoken to John Madden today and look forward to working closely with him,” FEI President Princess Haya said. “He is a well respected member of the equestrian community and is well placed to lead the sport of Jumping going forward.”

Sven, active in Swedish horse sports for many years and the FEI’s 1st Vice President–essentially No. 2 in the organization–until he ran against Princess Haya for the presidency, issued a blistering statement announcing his resignation. The princess was re-elected by a landslide, solidifying her control of the FEI that represents more than 130 national equestrian federations internationally, including the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping.

One of the issues in dispute was reported to have been the currency exchange rate the FEI applies to prize money. The jumping committee as well as other groups active in the sport reportedly supported maintaining 2010 rates, especially because of economic conditions in many developed countries, including Europe and the United States.

Regardless, the FEI changed the currency exchange rate.

An immediate effect was to force many competition organizers–at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, for example–to come up with additional prize money to maintain the FEI ranking of events after the prize lists had been published based on then-existing currency rates.

“Today I have resigned as Chairman of the Jumping Committee and as Bureau member of the FEI,” he said.

“My reasons go back more than a year; I did not agree with decisions that were being taken and in many of these cases I openly voiced a different opinion. Some of the decisions were in fact altered, but after lengthy and very expensive procedures.

“More recently the recommendations and advice of the Jumping Committee have been disregarded or dealt with in such a way as to convince me that, for whatever reason or reasons, the Jumping Committee is not respected as the technical advisor on the discipline of jumping.

“My heart, my knowledge and my passion are, and have always been, with the sport and I have been seeking to make it grow and develop both at the very top level and also at lower levels outside the core area. All who know me also know that my dedication is not limited to jumping only but includes all aspects of equestrian sport.

“The politics and the power games currently played in the FEI, which unfortunately expanded last year, will not benefit the development of our sport. I find that in some aspects my integrity is being questioned. I no longer find it meaningful, or useful, to participate in the politics as a Bureau member.

“My passion for the sport, my experience and my know-how will always be there and I will be continuing in my other roles.”