Show jumping nations will vote on returning to an eight-team format for the 2011 Nations Cup competition after the furore surrounding this year’s result put an extra team in next year’s series (news, 13 August).

Organisers, riders and national federations say that having 11 teams in the 2010 competition will put additional pressure on an already unwieldy format.

International Equestrian Federation (FEI) officials were left scratching their heads after the final of the 2009 Meydan FEI Nations Cup at Dublin (7 August) when Belgium and Great Britain finished the series tied on points and it was not clear who should be relegated.

On Monday (24 August), the FEI took the unusual step of allowing both to stay in the competition.

FEI spokesman Malina Gueorguiev said the decision was taken to avoid lengthy legal action as both nations had sworn to fight relegation.

British team performance manager Will Connell and secretary-general of the Belgian federation Ingmar Vos both say they are pleased with the compromise.

“Having 11 teams in the competition is not ideal, but it’s the sacrifice we have to make,” said Mr Vos.

And Mr Connell agreed, saying: “It will cause some challenges but it vindicates our feeling that GB should not be relegated. It’s up to the FEI to sort it out and make it work.”

But show jumper Ben Maher, who has been in five of the eight GB teams in this year’s competition, said: “The competitions take long enough already. Hickstead and Dublin had to split the rounds with the first early in the morning and the second in the afternoon. It ruins the atmosphere.”

Tim Stockdale, who helped Team GB score their best result of the tournament, a second place at Dublin, said: “I’m not a fan of the 10-team format and adding four more riders will not help.

“If you can’t run a Nations Cup competition in one afternoon it’s a bit of a non-event. Who wants to turn up at 9am to watch a round?”

Hickstead director Edward Bunn said running 11 teams would not make much difference to the way the competition runs, but he would like to see the return to an eight-team competition.

He said: “The FEI imposed 10 teams on us this year, against the wishes of every organiser. We had to split the class. Even diehard fans would get twitchy watching 72 rounds of jumping in one block.”

FEI member countries will meet at Windsor on Saturday (29 August) to discuss the series.
Miss Gueorguiev confirmed the format could change for 2011, saying: “There will be a meeting at the Europeans [at Windsor this week] when the national federations will discuss the Nations Cup. A return to an eight-team format will be under discussion.”

Mr Connell said he would be supporting the idea: “I think eight teams worked very well in the times of the Super League and we need to get back to that.

“If this means four teams get relegated next year and one promoted, that will be a challenge we must rise to.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (27 August, ’09)