Shock as termination by FEI means top sporting officials lose their voice

  • The FEI has been criticised for its “Putinesque” handling of the International Eventing Officials Club (IEOC), by removing it as an official stakeholder.

    The FEI has terminated its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the club, which means it is no longer recognised as the official organisation representing eventing officials’ views.

    The FEI said there had been a “breach of trust and general breakdown of the relationship” with club management, so “no further dialogue or collaboration is possible”.

    But IEOC chairman Andy Griffiths told H&H the club was “very disappointed”.

    “We tried to mediate,” he said. “We want to work together, and represent our members, and feel let-down now that we can’t. It’s a terrible situation, and I feel strongly that it could have been avoided, but the FEI didn’t want to mediate.”

    The club said that for months, it had been in discussion with the FEI about issues affecting officials, and about the terms of the MoU, but was unable to resolve the issues amicably.

    “We, therefore, felt we had no other option but to file a claim with the FEI Tribunal, requesting that the FEI comply with the MoU, to ensure that our members’ voices can be properly heard,” an IEOC statement reads.

    “We received the FEI’s defence to that claim on 29 February. At the same time, and without any prior warning, we received notification that the FEI was purporting to terminate the MoU with immediate effect.

    “On [1 March], and again without any prior warning to the IEOC, the FEI sent an email to eventing officials and published a statement online announcing its position that it has terminated the MoU with immediate effect.”

    Mr Griffiths said the club is taking legal advice in relation to the FEI’s actions, and that it is open to negotiations to restore the relationship, as without the official recognition, the club has no voice.

    “We have no official say in any changes,” he said. “Stakeholders can go to the FEI Sport Forum and give members’ views, for example, and that’s been taken away. It was a way to speak on members’ behalf. We feel very upset for our members.”

    Top course-designer Mark Phillips covers the issue in his H&H comment this week.

    He told H&H: “The FEI doesn’t want to hear from you unless you’re in agreement with what they’re doing. It’s totally one-sided. How can you be a worldwide organisation and make it impossible for people in the southern hemisphere to become a level four official? That was one issue the IEOC brought up but they didn’t want to know. They’re Putinesque; if they don’t like what you’re doing, get rid of them.”

    An FEI spokesman told H&H the FEI had decided to no longer recognise the club as an official FEI stakeholder, so terminated the MoU with immediate effect.

    “The MoU was based on trust and the mutual commitment to foster the growth of equestrian sport together in a respectful and harmonious manner,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the past months it has become evident that there is a breach of trust and a general breakdown of the relationship with the IEOC management.

    “Seeing that no further dialogue and collaboration is possible, the FEI has decided to formally terminate the relationship with the IEOC, and thus terminate the MoU.

    “Consequently, the IEOC will no longer benefit from the conditions offered to MoU, and the FEI will no longer recognise the IEOC as the international organisation representing the collective views of the FEI eventing officials. We would like to stress, however, that this decision does not impact the relationship of the FEI with its eventing officials in any way, with whom we wish to maintain a positive collaboration.

    “In addition, we would like to remind national federations that the interests of eventing officials are represented on the FEI eventing committee by an eventing official.”

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