Brussels Court of Appeal Rules in Favour of Freedom of Choice for Riders Enabling Launch of Global Champions League in 2016

BRUSSELS, October 22, 2015/PRNewswire — The Court of Appeal in Brussels today upheld an earlier decision of the Belgian Competition Authority enabling the 2016 launch of Global Champions League, the innovative team competition that will revolutionise the sport of show jumping.

The decision means riders have the freedom to compete in the highly anticipated GCL events, where teams will go head to head for unprecedented prize money in spectacular destinations worldwide next year.

The revolutionary new format, developed by the hugely successful Global Champions Tour (GCT) individual show jumping circuit, will see Olympic and World Champions in action every Friday at 15 sensational GCT destinations around the world.

In June of this year, the GCL filed a complaint with the BCA alleging the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) had breached EU competition law by using its rules to prevent riders and horses from competing in events not approved by the FEI by imposing a so-called “exclusivity clause”.

At the request of GCL, the BCA decided in July to suspend the “exclusivity clause”, allowing GCL Team Competitions to go ahead in 2016.

The FEI challenged and requested the suspension of the interim measures. Today the Court of Appeal in Brussels rejected the request and upheld the earlier decision by the Belgium Competition Authority (BCA). As a consequence the “exclusivity clause” of the FEI continues to be suspended in respect of the GCL.

The Court of Appeal said the FEI had failed to demonstrate the injunction inflicted serious and irreparable harm on the federation. The court said the FEI had managed for more than a century without the clause and failed to show why it was indispensable.

Frank H McCourt Jr, co-owner of GCT, said: “Momentum around the Global Champions League concept has been rapidly gathering pace since it was conceived and we welcome today’s news that the last hurdle has been removed.  We now look forward to focusing our energies on building a new and exciting era for show jumping.

“Global Champions League represents a transformational opportunity for the sport of show jumping.  There has been great anticipation in the show jumping community for a clear path to growth, opportunity, and exposure around the world.  We firmly believe that Global Champions League will deliver on all fronts as it builds a truly global fan base and creates exciting opportunities for everyone involved.”

Continuing in the same pioneering spirit of GCT to safeguard the future of the sport, GCL is committed to improving standards for horses, riders, owners and sponsors in the sport and horse welfare will remain a top priority.

Alongside the GCT’s top class vets, stewards will also be on hand at all GCL events to help ensure the well-being of participating horses.

To that end, GCL has invited the FEI to oversee horse welfare safeguards at the new-format competitions by inviting its own officials to join its own top class team of vets. At every GCL event experienced vets will be on standby with state-of-the-art horse welfare facilities available at all times as at all GCT events. Technology includes the Human Tecar Therapy technology, a physiotherapy system also used on Formula 1 drivers, and also high tech diagnostic equipment.

Notes to editors

About the legal case
In June, the GCL filed a complaint and a request for interim measures with the Belgian Competition Authority in Brussels alleging the FEI, the sport’s governing body, was in breach of European Union competition law by using its rules to prevent riders from competing in events not approved by the FEI.

On July 28th the Belgian Competition Authority granted the interim measures and ordered the suspension of the FEI’s “exclusivity clause”, pending the investigation of the complaint. This prevented the FEI from sanctioning any riders participating in non-FEI approved events.

The clause prohibited riders from taking part in any non-FEI approved event for a period of six months prior to their participation in an FEI event. Given the year-round nature of world-class competitive show jumping, the exclusivity clause effectively banned riders from taking part in non-FEI events.

About Global Champions Tour
Since its launch in 2006, Global Champions Tour has revolutionised show jumping transforming the sport by attracting new audiences, staging events in ground-breaking locations and offering unprecedented prize money. The world’s premier show jumping circuit takes place in spectacular outdoor venues in major cities, including Shanghai, Monaco, Rome, London, Paris, Doha and Miami Beach. The Tour is an FEI-approved show jumping series and enforces the highest welfare standards at every event.

GCT was founded by Jan Tops, the four times Olympic equestrian and Dutch team gold medalist in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The Tour’s impact on the profile of the sport has seen a transformational growth in TV and online audiences, spectator attendances and new international markets such as China.

Source: Global Champions League (GCL)

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