‘Without us there’s no sport’: officials raise concerns over abuse and bullying

  • FEI officials have raised major concerns about the way they are treated – as one has been “driven” to resign after 26 years.

    Christian Landolt told H&H it was a very difficult decision to leave, and it saddened him, but his “values are so far from the FEI’s current values, I can no longer be a representative”.

    Mr Landolt has officiated at eventing championships and CCI5*s, and said he has seen numerous cases of abuse of officials.

    “I’ve had one [chef d’equipe] coming at us really strongly over a flag issue. I said, ‘Your attitude was unacceptable’. He said, ‘I know, but last time I did it, we got penalties removed’.

    “Colleagues have had riders call before the dressage to say, ‘You judged me badly last time’, people saying they’ll get lawyers involved.”

    An incident after a US event, Mr Landolt said, “hit me for six”. He said he got an “aggressive” text from a rider he had had to sanction for a welfare issue, which “attacked my integrity and personality”. He told the FEI, but said they said it was US Equestrian’s (USEF) responsibility.

    “It was an FEI competition and I was an FEI judge,” he said. “But little was done.”

    Mr Landolt would like clearer rules and sanctions.

    “Bullying and intimidation will not go away unless there are rules, fit for purpose and consistently applied,” he said. “Most victims are reluctant to notify the FEI for fear of reprisals, being discredited, or simply ignored.

    “We don’t have contracts or salaries from the FEI but we’re at their mercy and have to comply with their every word,” he said. “It costs us money and we do it for the love of the sport but there has to be support. Without us, there’s no sport.”

    Mr Landolt cited the “division between those in the office and on the ground”, with which a current official, who H&H will not name, agreed.

    “It’s been wrong for years,” the official said, adding that the FEI does not always seem to take feedback on board.

    The official agreed on rules, adding: “If athletes want to complain about an official, they can, to the FEI, but if they’re intimidating or abusive, the FEI should deal with them; national federations dealing with athletes’ behaviour at FEI events doesn’t work, it’s passing the buck.

    “I’m aware abuse goes on, and officials probably won’t put their heads above the parapet and report it if they’re ambitious. We should all be able to work openly with the FEI for the good of the sport.”

    An FEI spokesman told H&H multiple cases of verbal abuse, “is not the information we are receiving”.

    “In 2022, we received five reports on similar issues; about 4,500 officials had worked at FEI events,” she said. “In our experience when interacting with officials [they] do not feel restrained about sharing views on such topics with FEI HQ, so we find it difficult to believe this issue is as widespread as this official insists.”

    The spokesman said the FEI has rules on behaviour and a disciplinary procedure for minor offences, plus a safeguarding policy against abuse and harassment.

    “When there is an alleged incorrect behaviour incident, the FEI liaises with national federations (NFs) as they are closer to their athletes. The FEI expects the NF to take any measures/sanctions. NFs often apply different rules and/or codes of conduct. The FEI may open proceedings, but there is no obligation, especially if the NF has taken action.”

    She said the rider who texted Mr Landolt was dealt with by USEF at FEI request; fined and put on probation. She said the FEI dealt “extensively “with Mr Landolt, his lawyer and USEF and considers the matter closed”.

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