The late cancellation of the qualifier by the iconic Spruce Meadows venue seems to be the latest casualty of the FEI’s sponsorship lock-out.
It has also left Canada without a place in the 2015 Nations Cup finals in Barcelona — the country finished second last year.
Unlike Europe, North America has only three Furusiyya qualifiers. Canada sent “rookies” to the Mexico leg to gain experience, expecting to grab their Barcelona slot at Spruce Meadows. But on April 10, Spruce cancelled, too late for Equine Canada to find a replacement venue.
In December 2012, the FEI agreed a 10-year, £120m exclusivity deal with Rolex’s rival watchmaker Longines.
This ended Rolex’s long-term support of FEI official series, even though it wanted to continue.
Several other shows have already chosen to stay with Rolex, notably ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Geneva, Wellington and Kentucky, which variously withdrew from the jumping World Cup series and 2018 WEG bids as a result.
FEI secretary-general Sabrina Zeender told H&H that shows had until December 2014 to sever old ties with Rolex, with the exception of Aachen, whose hosting of the 2015 European championships was agreed before the Longines contract was signed.
Consultants examining the future viability of the FEI World Equestrian Games recently recommended a move towards multiple principal sponsors.
Asked if the Longines exclusivity agreement worked against this, Ms Zeender said: “Longines is the FEI’s top partner in the timepieces and time-keeping category. There is nothing in the contract that prevents the FEI from having partnerships in other categories, such as IT, financial services, vehicles, various beverages, cosmetics, or others.”
Ian Allison, spokesman for Spruce Meadows, declined to answer a direct question about Rolex, but said: “Despite exploring numerous options, and the collective best efforts of each of the stakeholders, Spruce Meadows was not able to host a regional qualifier for the [Furusiyya] series this year, as it is not able to meet all of the required criteria set down for the 2015 season.”
Spruce Meadows has hosted Nations Cups without a break since 1977 with Britain winning 10 times. At Spruce’s September show, Scott Brash aims to win the first ever Rolex Grand Slam of jumping — a bonus launched by Rolex shortly after it was dropped by the FEI.
Ref: H&H 30 July, 2015