FEI considers reform plans for Olympic disciplines

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) could cut team sizes for the Olympic Games and is considering other initiatives to modernise the eventing and dressage disciplines.

The moves were part of a number of topics up for discussion at the FEI Sports Forum 2015, which sought to address equestrian’s part in the Agenda 2020 reform plan drawn up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Proposed changes to the Olympic Games format included teams of three or potentially two combinations, shorter tests, Pas-de-Deux or Pas-De-Trois. The positives of these proposals were considered to be a larger number of nations, which would increase universality, and separate individual and team competitions. The FEI said the removal of the ‘drop score’ rule would increase drama and entertainment and contribute towards more unpredictable results.

The negative aspects highlighted included a possible decrease in the level of excellence as top nations may bring fewer participants, and significant consequences for the team if a horse was eliminated or disqualified. The proposal was also that formats for the World Equestrian Games and European Championships should match the Olympic Games format.

Greater interaction and explanations on the sport, social media, use of music during tests other than the freestyle, length of tests, formats, quotas, open scoring, a redefined dress code, lifestyle stories, higher prize money, more attractive prize giving ceremonies and the involvement of young riders, were outlined as likely to have a positive impact on the attractiveness of the discipline.

“We need to get a product that is easier to sell on television,” FEI president Ingmar de Vos told the Associated Press news agency. He added that having more competing countries within an IOC-imposed quota of 200 riders is key to wider television coverage. “I believe our challenge is to increase the number of flags, to make the competition format more interesting and easier to understand for a wider audience,” De Vos said.

The drop score system currently means that team eventing counts only the best three scores from five pairings, and team jumping counts three from four. “Removing a drop score could bring a lot of additional excitement and drama,” De Vos added, acknowledging concern that teams can overcome major errors to win gold. “It is difficult to understand how (at the Olympics) there can be a second chance.”

Possible changes discussed at the two-day forum, which continues today (Tuesday) in Lausanne, could be voted on in November.

Frank Kemperman, chair of the FEI Dressage Committee, added: “We need to come up with a single format for Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games and Championships so that the public can more easily understand our sport. Most importantly, we have to be open to innovation and learn how to make it better. There is a young public out there and we need them, they have iPhones and iPads and they follow everything ‘in the moment’ online – that’s their world, and we must be part of it.”