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Court rules on UAE federation’s suspension from horse sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled the United Arab Emirates (UAE) national federation will remain suspended from FEI membership until 31 December 2020 – as a reduced suspension on endurance activity is confirmed.

On 24 September the federation was suspended by the FEI from all activities across any FEI discipline until the end of the year. The sanction followed a detailed investigation into the circumstances around two national endurance events in January and February 2020 – the Sheikh Mohammed Cup and The President’s Cup.

Under FEI rules, national events must be limited to no more than four national federations and/or no more than 15 foreign athletes, apart from “athletes living outside their country of nationality”. The investigation led by international law firm Bird & Bird LLP, found 93 foreign athletes from 24 different national federations participated in the Sheikh Mohammed Cup, and 88 riders from 21 federations in the President’s Cup.

Following an appeal by the UAE, a two-day hearing was held by CAS on 12-13 November and yesterday (17 November) CAS ruled the federation’s suspension remains in place until 31 December. The FEI had suspended UAE endurance until 31 March 2021, but the CAS ruling means endurance can now resume from 1 January 2021.

The suspension affects any UAE events, including national, which become “unsanctioned events” during the suspension period. Any FEI athlete, horse or official found participating in an unsanctioned event will be liable to a period of ineligibility of up to six months.

“We welcome today’s CAS decision confirming a violation of the FEI rules occurred which warranted a full suspension of the UAE national federation’s membership across all disciplines and significant financial penalties”, said FEI president Ingmar De Vos.

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“We are grateful to CAS for expediting the hearing of this appeal so that we are able to provide clarity to our community on the issue prior to the FEI general assembly next Monday (23 November).”

CAS ruled 25% of the prize money awarded at the Sheikh Mohammed Cup and 5% of the prize money awarded at the President’s Cup must be paid to the FEI, plus organising dues that would have been payable to the FEI had the events been held as CEIs. The FEI Board had ruled that 50% of prize money for the Sheikh Mohammed Cup and 10% for the President’s Cup was to be paid, in addition to the organising dues.

“At the request of the parties and in order to fast track the ruling, CAS provided today’s decision without the full rationale, which will be provided at a later date,” said an FEI spokesman.

In September the UAE expressed its deep regret about the suspension. A statement said the organisation follows the principle of transparency with the FEI, and had translated the FEI endurance rules into Arabic at the beginning of the year, making them easier for owners, trainers and riders to understand. It added that the events were run according to endurance rules without any violation of international or local rules.

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