FEI Sports Forum 2015 opens with discussion on future of FEI World Equestrian Games™

The FEI President Ingmar De Vos welcomed 270 delegates representing the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Federations (NFs), riders’, trainers’, and organisers’ clubs, sponsors, experts, media, guests and FEI staff to the fourth FEI Sports Forum which opened at the prestigious business school IMD in Lausanne (SUI)

27-28 April 2015, Lausanne (SUI) ~

Tim Hadaway FEI World Equestrian Games FEI Sports Forum 2015

Tim Hadaway FEI World Equestrian Games FEI Sports Forum 2015

Potential Changes in Competitions

“We are all here because we care about our sport,” De Vos said in his opening address. “We need to be open and honest about the challenges we are facing as a sport but more than that we need to be proactive and brave enough to consider changes that will address these challenges. I remember a quote from IOC President Thomas Bach who said “change or be changed.

“So it is absolutely not about change for the sake of change and by no means is there any desire to lose or replace the values and traditions of our sport. But we need to be open-minded to look at changes that can improve our sport and its legacy for the generations to come. What should be changed and how is why we are here today and I am grateful to each and everyone one of you for taking the time to participate in this Sports Forum,” he said.

FEI World Equestrian Games™ take centre stage

The Forum’s first session was dedicated to the FEI World Equestrian Games™, with the objective of turning the microscope on the FEI’s flagship event and outlining potential changes to the FEI disciplines and competition formats in order to increase the interest of future bid cities, the public, media and broadcasters.

Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 by the numbers

Tim Hadaway, FEI Director of Games and Championships, highlighted the magnitude of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy which were the biggest in the event’s 25-year history, with 74 nations represented, a record 28% increase on previous editions. Over 25,000 individuals including 900-plus athletes, 3,000 volunteers, 1,750 media and 250 officials were accredited and more than 1,000 horses competed at five venues spread across the Normandy region of France.

Highlighting the economic impact on the region, Hadaway detailed that 46,300 hotel nights had been booked through the Organising Committee and 103,500 meals were served to the accredited population. The event had also enjoyed record ticket sales with almost 575,000 tickets sold.

The event had also achieved substantial media coverage with more than 24,000 media mentions in France, 3,173 hours of global broadcast coverage, a total television audience of 330 million, and 5.5 million views on the FEI YouTube channel reached during the Games. The Games were also hugely successful on social media.

The total budget for the Games was €79.6 million, with an economic impact in Normandy estimated at €190 million and €368 million for France. The Organising Committee is expected to announce what Hadaway termed “a significant surplus” shortly.

Need for more controlled and smaller venue

A thorough debriefing process involving numerous stakeholders had identified that holding the Games over multiple venues had resulted in complex logistics and had led to increased cost. Other problems included delays in publication of key information and issues with IT systems, transport, security, and delays in issuing of ministry paperwork on departure of horses. Insufficient amenities and services, along with cross-country day traffic problems, had resulted in a level of frustration for some spectators.

The FEI has acknowledged that the FEI World Equestrian Games™ had evolved into a huge logistical and financial challenge and that, despite the many positives, the excellent sport and enjoyable atmosphere, the multiple venues had amplified complexity and stretched financial and human resources, occasionally resulting in the loss of the original concept of uniting the equestrian family.

Appetite for change

Matthew Wilson from The Sports Consultancy (TSC) presented the outcome of a detailed strategic review of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ put in place by the FEI prior to Normandy. The TSC had conducted a proactive review to understand how this flagship event could be re-aligned to meet its original objectives and to help equestrian sport continue to grow.

The outcome of this consultation process was clear: 97% of consultees were in agreement that the Games should remain as the pinnacle of the equestrian calendar, and 83% of consultees wanted to maintain all eight disciplines at the Games. It had become clear however that there was a strong appetite for change. The FEI’s main challenge was to ensure that the event could be delivered sustainably and continue to thrive.

A key finding of the TSC study was that the budget of the 2014 edition was considered by many as exceptionally large, and required extensive investment from the public sector. Only very few nations could afford to host such an expensive and complex event.

The following key conclusions from the TSC study were highlighted:

Reduction in the size of the competitor field;

Reduction in length of the event, nine to 10 days including two weekends was deemed the optimal length. The current format was deemed too long to sustain media and spectator interest.

Re-design of the competition formats and schedule to encourage a more compact foot print

Development and implementation of industry leading sport presentation concepts that deliver to the non-equestrian fan needs. 

Ratings are king

Stefan Kürten from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), a professional association working on behalf of European public service broadcasters, addressed the Forum. The FEI and EBU have been partners since 1989 and the cooperation was recently extended through to 2022.

Kürten spoke about the challenges currently faced by sports in public broadcasting, including fierce competition between sports events, less airtime for sport on generalist channels, strong fragmentation of the TV market, increasing calendar conflicts, and the duration of sport events versus entertainment programmes. Sport was expensive compared to other programmes but remained strong when there was emotion, national interest and when it was broadcast live. The number of thematic channels was exploding, resulting in less sport on generalist channels, but ratings are always king, Kürten said.

The key to increased airtime on public television, which was an essential component of a successful sponsor package, was a high quality television production, telling stories, meeting the broadcasters’ needs, and a requirement for strict timetable discipline and focus.

Question time

In the following question and answer session between the panel and delegates, there was input from the Danish, New Zealand, United States, Australian, Austrian, British, and French Equestrian Federations and the riders’ representatives, with discussion on ticket sales, opening and closing ceremonies, compulsory qualifying elements, live television coverage and the optimum number of athletes and the optimal duration for the event.

Photo caption: Tim Hadaway, FEI Director of Games and Championships, addressing the FEI Sports Forum 2016 held at the IMD business school in Lausanne. Photo: FEI/Germain Arias-Schreiber

Day Two highlighted the Olympic Agenda 2020 at the FEI Sports Forum

Olympic Agenda 2020 panel FEI Sports Forum 2015

Olympic Agenda 2020 panel FEI Sports Forum 2015

On 28 April IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell addressed delegates stressing Kit McConnell addressed the key elements of Olympic Agenda 2020, highlighting four areas: maximizing engagement of the youth audience; achieving gender equality and promotion of women’s sport; increasing universality; and increasing the popularity and value of the Olympic Games.

On gender equality, the IOC Sports Director stressed that the IOC is working with International Federations to achieve 50% female participation in the Olympic Games and to stimulate women’s participation and involvement in sports by creating more participation opportunities at the Olympic Games. This involves encouraging the inclusion of mixed-gender team events and aiming for an equal gender balance across the Games as a whole.

“The FEI has been fully compliant with this for many years, but your International Federation is in a fairly unique position”, he said, before informing delegates that the numbers for equestrian in London were 122 men and 77 women. Across all sports at the 2012 Games, there was 44.4% female participation, with a goal of 46.1% for Rio 2016.

“Equestrian was an outstanding success in terms of ticketing at London 2012, with over 98% of all tickets sold across the three disciplines”, he said.

Strong media coverage of equestrian across all platforms at London 2012 also featured in the presentation. In broadcast, Jumping was well ahead of the other two disciplines in terms of hours of coverage, but Dressage was the most popular discipline online and in print media coverage. 

Photo caption: IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell (far right) pictured with the chairmen of FEI Olympic disciplines (from left): Frank Kemperman, Dressage; Giuseppe Della Chiesa, Eventing; and John Madden, Jumping. Photo: FEI/Germain Arias-Schreiber

FEI votes to change Statutes to allow for Presidential remuneration

On 28 April the FEI voted unanimously to modify the organization’s Statutes to allow the FEI President to receive remuneration. The amendment to the Statutes opens up the possibility for remuneration, but the final decision still rests with the FEI Bureau, which will discuss the issue at its in-person meeting in June.

The vote was taken at an Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA) held during the FEI Sports Forum at IMD in Lausanne (SUI). A total of 59 National Federations were on-site to register their votes and there were 27 powers of attorney, giving a total of 86 valid votes. The required quorum is 67, half of the 133 National Federations plus one.

Ingmar De Vos FEI President FEI Sports Forum 2015

Ingmar De Vos FEI President FEI Sports Forum 2015

Photo caption: FEI President Ingmar De Vos, pictured at the FEI Sports Forum 2015 at the IMD in Lausanne (SUI). The FEI today voted unanimously to modify the FEI statutes to allow the FEI President to receive remuneration. (FEI/Germain Arias-Schreiber)

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