FEI stands firm as riders back new Global Champions League

  • The FEI is standing firm in its fight against the new Global Champions League showjumping series.

    Today (Thursday, 3 December) FEI president Ingmar De Vos said the federation’s position “remains unchanged” on the new league, which has been set up by the Global Champions Tour.

    He added that the federation will “continue to fight the decision with all legal means”.

    “The GCL is still an unsanctioned event which is not approved by the FEI and we are still seeking a full annulment of the [Belgian Competition Authority’s (BCA)] decision,” said Ingmar.

    In June, the GCL filed a complaint with the BCA alleging the FEI had breached EU competition law by using its rules to prevent riders and horses from competing in events not approved by the FEI by imposing a so-called “exclusivity clause”.

    However, the Court of Appeal in Brussels upheld the decision of the BCA enabling the 2016 launch of the league, which organisers claim will “revolutionise” showjumping.

    In July the BGA said the GCL could go ahead in 2016, however this was challenged by the FEI.

    The Court of Appeal said the FEI had failed to demonstrate the injunction “inflicted serious and irreparable harm” on the federation. The court said the FEI had managed for more than a century without the clause and failed to show why it was indispensable.

    “As the international governing body, we of course have to respect the decision of the Court and have complied with the BCA ruling to publish a statement declaring that, as an interim measure, athletes and horses competing in the GCL events will not be sanctioned,” added Ingmar.

    “But I want to make it absolutely clear, these are only interim measures which we will continue to fight and that no decision has yet been taken on the merits of the case.

    “Some people are trying to create confusion about this case and the position of the FEI, but let me be very clear, our position has not changed. We will fight to defend the principal of unsanctioned events and, once this rule is upheld, it will be applied immediately.”

    The competition will be run each Friday at GCT shows — which will take place in 15 cities next year.

    It is intended to boost prize money to around €20m (£15.6m).

    Club owners will field “star strikers” and two riders from a squad of four would be selected to compete at each event.

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    Organisers have gained support from riders.

    “With the league coming into play in 2016 we will see another step forward for showjumping, and it will add a new and unique dimension to our sport with riders able to be part of a team with people they’d never be able to join forces with normally,” said world number one Scott Brash.

    “It’s unique. What’s so good about this new concept is it will open up a different angle for fans and encourage new audiences, really raise the bar in terms of what’s possible within show jumping and help lift our profile to that of mainstream sports like Formula 1 and football.

    “This is positive for everyone involved, and it has a knock on effect in our industry which helps the growth, development and future of what we do. I think the Global Champions League will bring new opportunities, new experiences and new people to show jumping from around the world, and I’m really happy to be involved in our sport at such an exciting time.”

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