FEI Imposes Costly Changes to Paperless Scoring, Other Digital Innovations at Dressage, Para-Dressage Competitions

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Scoreboard at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida displaying spectator judging. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Jan. 22, 2020


The FEI–International Equestrian Federation–has issued requirements that could have the effect of crippling paperless and spectator judging and cause delays on results for most dressage and para-dressage shows in the world.

In what the FEI describes as “the necessary features and technical requirements” of dressage paperless judging, all events involving CDIs for dressage and CPED for para-dressage would have to switch to high grade computer and communications systems dedicated solely to scores. No competition venues anywhere in the world are known to currently have such capabilities.

The requirements are so onerous as to add significant costs for show organizers, some of whom operate on razor-thin margins and could lead to dropping technological improvements that the FEI itself has declared boost fan engagement.

Paperless judging has also enabled show organizers for the first time in years to cap expenses–one scribe for electronic input instead of two scribes, one for paper and one digital, no runners to collect score sheets, scoring accountants no longer required. And score sheets available online for riders–no more mounds of paper to maintain an original official signed result and a copy for the rider.

The FEI requirements dated December 2019 have been published on the public Internet site of the Lausanne, Switzerland-based governing body of international horse sports. The document was unsigned and it is not known where it originated within the FEI and whether it was approved by senior staff. However, it has been on the site for some time.

While the specifications have so far not become widely known, dressage-news.com has learned that the European Equestrian Federation, the International Dressage Officials Club that represents judges and the Association of International Dressage Event Organizers are opposed to the FEI requirements.

The FEI document was available online Wednesday night at https://inside.fei.org/system/files/Dressage_Paperless_Judging_System_Features_and_Requirements_v1_0.pdf

Would fan-pleasing innovations such as this scoreboard at London Olympia be allowed under FEI requirements for scoring. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The rapid and widespread application of paperless judging, spectator judging and a wide range of digital tools available virtually instantaneously to judges is shown by their use at the three competitions on the FEI schedule this week–Amsterdam, Netherlands World Cup, Boneo, Australia CDI3* and national competition and the third week of the Global Dressage Festival World Cup, CDI3* and national competition at Wellington, Florida. All are paperless and use spectator judging as well as making available to judges at the click of a button a so-called dashboard of valuable information.

Spectator judging was first introduced by SAP, the globe’s largest enterprise software company, at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany in 2014.

In the past five years, digital innovations have been introduced by SAP and its applications partner BlackHorse-One of Munich, Germany, aimed at making dressage more transparent to fans and stakeholder groups. In addition to spectator judging, paperless judging has been introduced with the blessing of the FEI for the World Cup Western European League as well as other events such as Florida’s Global Dressage Festival. An esports league has been formed and widely publicized by the FEI and top level freestyles applying a degree of difficulty that is widely used in other sports such as ice skating.

SAP’s pioneering software led to the global company becoming the “Official Analytics Sponsor of the FEI World Cup Dressage” series

Some key requirements of the new FEI system:

–All judges’ devices and servers used for paperless judging must be connected by a cable–copper or optical fiber–to a server on-site and with redundancy. The system must not rely on any Wi-Fi or other wireless connection to operate, as is the case at most events.

–Only FEI-approved paperless judging software is allowed to be used at FEI events. None has so far been approved.

–All data transmitted over the network must be encrypted. It’s common for shows to display individual marks and movement-by-movement scores on monitors for spectators to follow the competition.

–The FEI will henceforth provide the scoresheet to the riders through their FEI account, and not the current practice of the organizer making the results available promptly.

–The scoresheet of each athlete must be made available only via the FEI official website and should not be published or made available anywhere else by any other party.

–The marks, scores, comments and any other data related to the results collected by the service provider cannot be used for any publication, analysis, statistical calculation, comparison or any other usage.

The impact on news coverage of dressage competitions would be catastrophic as, under this requirement, no scores would be available to the media.

Paperless judging as it has been applied at competitions around the world–from London’s Olympia Christmas event to the 12-week Global Dressage Festival in Wellington–has allowed the scores to be displayed and announced even before the rider and horse leave the arena. These changes have been widely popular.