In November, horse sport’s global governing body the FEI announced a new-look Nations Cup series, with a four-year sponsorship package worth £13.4million from the Saudi Equestrian Fund.
As Europe’s Nations Cup shows are obliged to offer prize-funds totalling £168,000, Hickstead told H&H that it might not be able to afford to put on the class as it faced a shortfall of around £150,000.
But a new agreement between the FEI and luxury watchmaker Longines has put paid to those doubts.
The deal — the largest struck by the federation — makes Longines the FEI’s “top partner” and official timekeeper, pushing out long-term sponsor Rolex.
An FEI spokesman told H&H that Nations Cups organisers would “benefit substantially” from the Longines partnership.
Hickstead director Edward Bunn confirmed that “increased funding” from Longines and the FEI meant they had been able to preserve the Nations Cup.
The Longines-FEI partnership is worth a nine-figure sum over 10 years.
It means that the FEI Nations Cup, FEI World Cup jumping series, the World Equestrian Games, endurance World Championships and the world rankings will all run under the Longines name.
Rolex, which was title sponsor of the World Cup and the rankings, has been edged out.
In a rather terse statement, Rolex said it was “disappointed”, but would continue to be involved with horse sport.
But H&H has learnt that the FEI’s deal with Longines has thrown up certain anomalies.
Although Rolex can still sponsor individual FEI-sanctioned events — such as the Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials — it was not clear whether it could still be the event’s official timekeeper.
For FEI-named series, there will be “a short transitional period” to phase out other sponsors. At the end of that period, “no events with sponsors in the same brand sector as Longines can be part of the series”.
This appeared to come as a surprise to Aachen; the showground has a long relationship with Rolex.
“Aachen has a long-term contract with Rolex and it is clear that Rolex will have all timekeeping rights here,” said a spokesman.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (24 January 2013)