Paris lands equestrian showpiece, as FEI steps up Global Champions League battle

Paris has seen off competition from Gothenburg and Las Vegas to land the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) 2018 World Cup jumping and dressage finals, while the federation has signalled its intention to maintain its long-running legal battle with organisers of the Global Champions League (GCL) competition.

The French capital, along with the Swedish and US cities, were last month revealed as the three bidders for the FEI showpiece. The hosting rights were assigned today by the FEI Bureau at the federation’s general assembly in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The 2018 events will mark the first occasion that Paris has had the opportunity to stage equestrian sport’s most prestigious double indoor finals. The World Cup Jumping Final and World Cup Dressage Final will take place from April 10-15, 2018 at the AccorHotels Arena, formerly known as Paris Bercy Arena, located on the Boulevard de Bercy in central Paris.

FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said. “This will be the first time the dual finals have been held in Paris, although the finals were held separately in 1987 for jumping and 1991 for dressage, so the time is right to return to this wonderful international city.

“Last year France hosted the largest Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to date, and we are confident that GL Events, the team that organised brilliant double finals in Lyon in 2014, will take the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and the FEI World Cup Dressage Final 2018 to a new level of excellence.”

In other news, the FEI Bureau has agreed unanimously to continue to fight the case between the federation and the Global Champions League “with all legal means”, adding it is buoyed by similar efforts being undertaken by the International Skating Union (ISU).

Organisers of the GCL last month claimed they were ready to launch the new show jumping series next year following their latest victory in an ongoing legal battle with the FEI. The GCL in June filed a complaint with the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) alleging that the FEI had breached European Union competition law by using its rules to prevent riders and horses from competing in events not approved by the global governing body through imposing a so-called ‘exclusivity clause’.

The BCA in July opted to suspend this clause to allow the GCL team competitions to go ahead next year. Being developed by the Global Champions Tour (GCT), the GCL is a new team competition organisers have said will “revolutionise” show jumping through Olympic and world champions competing in 15 events across the world.

The FEI opted to challenge the BCA ruling and requested the suspension of the interim measures. However, the Court of Appeal in Brussels last month upheld the BCA’s initial ruling, which will maintain the suspension of the ‘exclusivity clause’ and allow the event to go ahead next year as planned.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal said the FEI failed to demonstrate that the injunction inflicted serious and irreparable harm on the body. The court also said that the FEI had managed for more than a century without the clause and failed to show why it was indispensable to its operations.

The FEI has now said the suspension was rejected without any review of the merits of the case, adding it believes the BCA decision should not be applicable outside Belgium and is therefore seeking a full annulment of the decision.

The European Commission recently opened a formal anti-trust investigation into ISU rules that impose a lifetime ban from competitions, including the Olympic Games and the ISU World and European Championships, on athletes that take part in events not approved by the ISU.

The FEI is to put in a request to the European Commission to be an interested party in the ISU case, and FEI president Ingmar De Vos has also written to the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) Council and all ASOIF members proposing that they should put in a similar request. Additionally, the FEI has asked ASOIF to represent the interests of its members on unsanctioned event rules.

“We simply want justice,” De Vos said. “We do not want our athletes to be the victims of this ongoing legal case, so we will abide by the Belgian Competition Authority ruling and not sanction them or their horses for competing in GCL events, but it is very important that they are aware that there has been no ruling on the merits of the case and that these interim measures guarantee nothing on the future of unsanctioned events.

“We welcome the European Commission’s formal investigation into the ISU case and await the outcome of that investigation with interest as it will establish the principle on unsanctioned events that will be implemented across the European Union for all sports. The unsanctioned events rule is applied in other sports and we are confident that the principle will be accepted by the European Commission.

“Many International Federations are confronted with similar issues, but while our athletes have the right to decide what events they will compete in, the FEI also has a non-decision making participant, the horse, and it is our duty to protect its welfare and to ensure the integrity of the events that both our equine and human athletes compete in.”