THE FEI’s battle with the new commercial showjumping team series, Global Champions League (GCL), took a new twist this month when two top officials were suspended for taking part.
Judge Rogier Van Iersal and course-designer Rob Jansen, who officiated at the opening GCL legs in Miami (10 April) and Mexico City (17 April), were barred from FEI events for six months.
The GCL is an innovation by entrepreneur Jan Tops, and integrated into his long-standing Global Champions Tour (pictured, above). But while the tour is FEI-approved, the league is not.
Last year, the Belgian Competition Authority’s (BCA) interim judgement permitted the GCL to go ahead.
The FEI conceded that riders could jump without being disciplined under the FEI’s unsanctioned events rule, until the full merits of the case are tested.
John Whitaker, Laura Renwick and Ben Maher are among the British participants.
However, the BCA application did not include officials. H&H asked GCL if this was an oversight, but has not received a response.
The FEI sent all officials a warning letter in December, and different officials were appointed to the non-GCL classes at tour events in anticipation.
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Van Iersal and Jansen issued a joint statement saying: “We wanted to support this initiative, and if you saw the atmosphere in Miami and Mexico it has immediately proven itself to be the positive new dimension we expected.
“Secondly, we don’t understand at all that riders and horses are allowed to compete and that officials are being used to try to block it, which we feel is totally ridiculous for a number of reasons, including horse welfare.”
Earlier this month, FEI president Ingmar deVos confirmed to H&H the body was continuing to oppose the GCL “by all legal means“. He said GCL went to the BCA having only shown the FEI “a page and a half” of draft rules for the league.