A message from Maria Gretzer, Chair of the Athletes’ Committee and a member of the FEI Executive Board
Dear National Federations,
The cancellation of some of our sport’s biggest events, not just the FEI World Cup™ Finals and the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final, but some of our key Championships and, more recently, the last-minute cancellation of the FEI Driving World Championships in Valkenswaard, has led to speculation that other key events will be – or even should be – removed from the Calendar too.
The loss of every event is devastating, for the athletes preparing to participate, for the Organisers and also for the fans, even if they can only watch remotely via livestream. But the decision to cancel is often taken out of the Organisers’ hands, as it was in Valkenswaard when the announcement came directly from the City Hall. The Organisers and the FEI were simply informed of the Mayor’s decision.
With so many top events and FEI Championships falling victim to the pandemic, those that are left in the FEI Calendar are precious commodities, but our community must understand that they will not be run at all costs. It is the responsibility of the host National Federation and the Organisers to conduct the required risk assessment as per the FEI Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the Covid-19 Pandemic and to run the event within the national restrictions imposed by their national or local authorities.
From a Championships perspective, this weekend’s FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers (FRA) and next week’s FEI World Driving Championships for Single Horses in Pau (FRA) will both be run under stringent national requirements and in line with the FEI Return to Play policy. The same will apply for the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Verden (GER) in December.
The FEI is in constant contact with the Championships Organisers to ensure that there is not just a one-off risk assessment, but that this is conducted on a daily basis during the build-up to and throughout the event to ensure that the latest measures – even those announced by government in the middle of competition – are implemented as necessary. The same applies for all FEI Events, not just for Championships.
As Dr Mark Hart, Chair of the FEI Medical Committee, wrote to our community back in August, the consistent application of all guidelines and recommendations is not just the responsibility of competition Organisers, it applies to every individual attending our events. Athletes, their extended support teams, volunteers, vendors, and fans must all be held to the same level of accountability.
Everyone involved needs to keep themselves fully updated on requirements, which may change on a daily basis, and adhere to them, to the letter. And, if you decide to participate at an event, no matter what your role, you need to be aware of the potential consequences of that decision.
The FEI Dressage World Cup™ series kicks off at Aarhus (DEN) this weekend, and the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ is also due to get underway at the end of the month in Lyon (FRA), which has already drastically reduced its programme in order to protect the feature Jumping events.
The FEI World Cup™ series, across all its disciplines, is for individuals who can make their own decision on whether or not to compete. But there is no question that a Championship, whatever the level and whatever the discipline, carries with it a different set of pressures and responsibilities. It is a great honour to be selected to represent your country, but that does not oblige you to attend if you feel unsure about the wisdom of doing so. That is your choice, and there are some National Federations that have already made the decision not to travel to Pau next week. Again, that is their prerogative and we must all respect those decisions.
But what we can all do, in fact what we must all do, is to remember that – collectively – we are responsible for the future of our sport. This is not a responsibility that can be passed on to someone else, this is something we must all take on board, together.
Science supports the effectiveness of national restrictions and the FEI guidelines to reduce the transmission and spread of Covid-19, but they have to be applied consistently and strictly, and by everyone. If our events are to achieve the shared goal of providing a safe competition environment for all participants, then we absolutely need active participation and full compliance by all.
There is no doubt that the pandemic is something that the vast majority of us have never experienced in our lifetime, and we all hope that we will never have to go through anything like this again. It has had devastating effects globally and has impacted us all to varying degrees, and we are all learning on a daily basis as we go through these incredibly challenging times. Every decision has pros and cons and every single one is carefully considered before being finalised, but please understand, the FEI has your interests and the interests of our sport and our horses at heart and we will continue to work tirelessly to serve you.
FEI Athletes’ Committee Chair
FEI Executive Board Member