Eventers debate controversial proposal to change flag rules

  • Event riders gathered last week (2 October) to discuss a controversial potential rule change involving flags.

    In April H&H reported on the FEI looking into amendments to the sport, to fall into line with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 2020 Agenda on creating “attractive, modern, TV- and spectator-friendly sports”.

    One of the proposals for eventing was the introduction of five penalties for knocking flags on skinny, narrow or corner fences.

    “Whoever suggested the five-penalty rule doesn’t understand our sport,” Paul Tapner told H&H at the time.

    “We need improved technology — they have Hawk-Eye in tennis and cricket, we need something similar.”

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    Last week an informal discussion was held at Osberton by the Event Riders Association GB to help facilitate ideas for British event rider representative Daisy Berkeley.

    The general feeling from riders was against the rule.

    “We need a black and white rule, but we’re not sure if this is it,” said ERA’s Bruce Haskell. “We want to be proactive and openly discuss things.”

    No rule change would be implemented until 2017.

    Olympic eventer Jane Holderness-Roddam told H&H that something needs to be sorted to make it easier for judges, riders and officials “so everyone knows where they stand” when judging flags at accuracy fences.

    It is such a difficult situation, there are so many ifs and buts, but it’s becoming a bit of a joke,” she said.

    “In some cases riders are winging it through corners, other times the fence is too narrow to fit a horse through, other times it’s bad luck that a rider’s foot knocks it when the horse has jumped safely.

    “People seem generally against it, but there needs to be more time to discuss it. As far as I can see there’s no easy solution but there needs to be some kind of clarification.”

    British Eventing’s Davide Holmes said it was a “great initiative” by ERA to organise the meeting.

    “This rule would require much more standardisation of types of flags/their fitting/ the dimensions of obstacles that could potentially cause the infringement of the rule – and the possibility of applying this rule across the world,” he added.

    “The main theme to come out from all was that the FEI must consult widely within the eventing community regarding the possible implementation of such a rule. There would also require a lead in period of sometime in order to enable the required standardisation globally to support it.

    “The bottom line was that given where we are now it would be very difficult to implement.”

    For Harry Meade’s comments don’t miss this week’s issue of H&H – out today (Thursday 8 October).

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