Funding problems threaten Moscow Europeans

  • Ongoing negotiations over the funding for the European Dressage Championships, scheduled to take place in Moscow on 27-31 July, have so far failed to produce a satisfactory resolution.

    Mariette Withages, Chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee told Horse & Hound Online this morning that although Russian government officials have pledged some of the money, over half the funding is still not secured.

    Withages described the situation as “worrying” and has given the Russian authorities a final deadline of Monday to come up with the funds. “We can’t wait any longer,” she said. “It is a glass of water situation: we look at the glass as being half empty but the Russians look at it as being half full. We worry that there are only four weeks left while they say ‘but we still have four weeks…’.”

    If funds are not found by Thursday it is likely that the competition will be forced to move to another venue. The FEI has not yet decided where this would be: “We are trying to formulate Plan B, but we are still too busy with Plan A”, said Withages. “It would be somewhere like Germany, Holland or England, at an established venue with all the facilities in place”.

    Withages praised the organisers of the Moscow championships who are doing everything in their power to accelerate the negotiations. The event is due to be held at the Bitza Equestrian Centre, 10km from central Moscow with prize money totalling €130,000. The centre was opened in 1980 and served as the venue for equestrian events in the 1980 Olympic Games. It has been expensively renovated and refurbished in preparation for the competition, which is seen by many as an important opportunity for Russian equestrianism.

    A report produced last month by Will Connell, performance director for the British Dressage team and chef d’equipe David Trott prompted the FEI’s investigation into the organisation of the Moscow Championships. Although they praised the venue in general, they voiced concerns over horse transportation from the airport, insurance issues and vets inspections.

    The report also outlined worries over stabling conditions, supply of horse feed, veterinary facilities and competitor/groom accommodation and meals. Since negotiations began earlier this week, the Russian government has guaranteed police support during horse transport from the airport and ensured conditions at the event will be suitable for horses, competitors and grooms.

    It is now only the question of funding that remains unresolved. It appears that the event organisers overlooked the need to certify that the championships had the authorities’ support. If the funding has not been secured by Thursday, the FEI will be forced to make alternative arrangements for this year’s Europeans.

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