FEI Gives Go-ahead to Riders for Global Champions League Following Order by Belgian Competition Authority

BRUSSELS, December 2, 2015/PRNewswire —

***Decision underlines freedom of riders to compete***

The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the equestrian sport’s governing body, has publicly confirmed that riders have the freedom to compete in the new team-based Global Champions League (GCL) launching in 2016.

The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) already ordered the FEI to communicate this formally and publicly by 31 August, as a consequence of its suspension of the FEI’s so-called “exclusivity clause”, allowing the launch of GCL in 2016.

Because the FEI failed to communicate in accordance with the decision of the BCA, the BCA ordered the FEI to do so, or face a penalty fine.

The publication of the information states that “No athlete or horse can be suspended or sanctioned because of their participation in a competition organised by the Global Champions League”.

This text can now be found on the FEI website in the following sections http://www.fei.org/news (as a press release) and http://www.fei.org/fei/about-fei/fei-update/2015 (as a FEI update newsletter). This information is also required to be delivered to the national federations, the International Jumping Rider Club and the Alliance of Jumping Riders by email.

Building on the huge success of the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT), the GCL will see Olympic and World Champions in action every Friday at 15 sensational LGCT destinations around the world. Top riders have predicted the innovative new format will inject fresh excitement for fans and TV audiences worldwide as team competition creates new rivalries and tactical alliances.

The world’s current two highest ranked riders, Scott Brash and Kent Farrington, have both spoken about how positive the development is for the sport and how the GCL will open a new era for show jumping.

World No 1 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash said: “I believe next year and the introduction of the new Global Champions League team competition will be incredibly exciting and positive for our sport. What Jan [Tops] has already achieved to this point has been phenomenal, and the vision he has is just incredible. It goes without saying that LGCT has to be one of the top series in show jumping, with long standing respect – and his experience and passion means he always works for the best for our sport and all involved.

“With the League coming into play in 2016 we will see another step forward for show jumping, and it will add a new and unique dimension to our sport with riders able to be part of a team with people they’d never be able to join forces with normally. It’s unique. What’s so good about this new concept is it will open up a different angle for fans and encourage new audiences, really raise the bar in terms of what’s possible within show jumping and help lift our profile to that of mainstream sports like Formula 1 and football.

“This is positive for everyone involved, and it has a knock on effect in our industry which helps the growth, development and future of what we do. I think the Global Champions League will bring new opportunities, new experiences and new people to show jumping from around the world, and I’m really happy to be involved in our sport at such an exciting time.”

Leading US rider Kent Farrington, currently ranked No 2 in the world, said: “Since the GCT’s inception ten years ago, Jan Tops has followed his dream of modernising the sport of show jumping and proved a lot of people wrong, bringing the sport to new heights never seen before. I think the Global Champions League is the next step in his dream and in the evolution of the sport.

“Jan has surrounded himself with a strong alliance of partners, sponsors, and the best riders in the world and I think that if he and his team believe in it, then the League is the next step in helping show jumping become a sport much the same as Formula 1, golf, and tennis. I look forward to being involved and enjoying the ride along the way.”

Other leading riders also spoke of the positive impact of the new team competition.

Olympic silver medallist and European Champion Rolf-Göran Bengtsson said: “I think it is good for our sport to involve more people. I am looking forward to it; it can be a great thing. When we have popular riders in good teams it is good for the fans also. I think this League could help to grow fans around the teams, it is interesting to follow and also the set-up of the team with two top riders and also other riders that can come in, maybe younger riders.”

Luciana Diniz, the new LGCT 2015 champion, also spoke of the positive effect on the sport: “For me as an individual rider I never have a team, so having a team together with me will be a very nice feeling and a very good thing for the sport.”

The GCL will see two riders from each team competing over two rounds, with scores based on penalties and time. The GCL has committed to adhering to the highest standards of horse welfare and integrity of competition, in keeping with the widely acknowledged equine care at all LGCT events. GCL has twice invited the FEI to perform anti-doping and medication controls at GCL events. So far, the FEI did not respond. Earlier Court decisions firmly rejected the FEI’s claim that its exclusivity rule was the only way to protect horse welfare and integrity of competition.

In June this year GCL filed a complaint with the BCA, alleging the FEI breaches competition law rules by using its rules to prevent riders from competing in events not approved by the FEI by imposing a so-called “exclusivity clause”. In its interim measures ruling, the BCA ordered the FEI to suspend its exclusivity clause with regard to the GCL pending the investigation into the GCL’s complaint, thus allowing the GCL to go ahead in 2016.

The FEI challenged and requested the suspension of the interim measures. In October, the Court of Appeal in Brussels rejected the request and upheld the earlier decision by the BCA. The FEI claimed its credibility would be undermined if GCL went ahead but in its ruling the Court of Appeal rejected this and stated: “Any undermining of the credibility of the FEI as the sport’s governing body is not a consequence of the decision, but a risk to which the FEI has exposed itself by engaging in, in addition to its governing function, the marketing of equestrian competitions.”

Notes to editors:

Previous press releases relating to this case can be found here:

October 22, 2015: http://www.globalchampionstour.com/news/2015/1419/brussels-court-of-appeal-rules-in-favour-of-freedom-of-choice-for-riders-enabling-launch-of-global-champions-league-in-2016

July 29, 2015: http://www.globalchampionstour.com/news/2015/1369/global-champions-league-confirmed-for-2016-launch-after-belgian-competition-authority-suspends-fei-exclusivity-clause

Source: Global Champions League (GCL)

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