Proposals for radical changes to eventing have left riders “concerned” and “frustrated”.
The FEI is 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”.
The idea is to create a “new generation of fans” says the IOC.
The plans will be discussed at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne tomorrow (Monday 27 April).
And while eventers are not averse to the idea of modernisation, leading riders said that a “drastic overhaul” is not needed.
The sport has already had its format amended once to fit with the IOC’s plans, and now the International Event Riders Association (ERA Int) — says the changes are “not justified”.
Proposals that are sparking some debate include the downgrading of Olympic and championship cross-country from four-star to three-star level for team events, with the aim of involving more nations.
A second contentious point is the decrease to 10 penalties for a first refusal, plus 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.
“We need improved technology — they have Hawk-Eye in tennis and cricket, we need something similar.
“Eventing should take a lead from dressage, proposals to change the sport include good publicity and more promotion — that’s what eventing needs too.”
Kiwi rider and president of the International Event Riders Association Bruce Haskell agrees.
“When compared to other sports, the way eventing is presented to the public is outdated, it needs freshening up,” he said.
“The main concern is the lack of justification for change. We’re saying ‘don’t change our sport, change the presentation of our sport’. It needs modernising and making more commercial.”
He added that there were major worries that some of the proposals could affect safety.
“The Olympics should be aspirational. These changes will increase [the number of] runners, but will decrease the standard and put the sport at risk in front of a television audience,” he said.
“Similarly, if you’re only going to get 10 penalties for a run out, people are going to take more risks.”
Mark Todd agreed the sport doesn’t need an overhaul.
“What needs changing is the attitude to how it is run, and how it is presented to the public,” he said (see Mark Todd’s comment)
The name of the sport is also under discussion — with possibilities being “equestrian triathlon”, “equestrathon” and “tri-equathlon”.
“I don’t have a problem with the name change, but they’d be better simplifying the confusing things like CIC and CCI first,” added Paul.
Other points investigated on the document include a safety audit — which will look at data that the FEI has collected over the past 10 years.
Any changes will be brought in at the general assembly next November (2016).
An FEI spokesman added: “The proposals are made by the FEI Eventing Committee based on the overall discussion held for all sports in relation to the IOC 2020 recommendations. With the decision to shift from a ‘sports’-based Olympic Games to ‘events’, it is important to review the equestrian sports in the Olympic context ensuring that the three disciplines will promote similar principles for the universality and understanding.”