It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for British eventers: though many were deeply disappointed by the cancellation of this week’s Fairfax & Favor Rockingham International Horse Trials, which saw yet another CCI2*-S class pulled from the calendar, next week’s Bicton International quickly stepped up to the plate and confirmed its intentions to add a CCI2*-S class to its roster of international classes, which already include long-format two- and three-star classes and a CCI4*-S. Entries quickly began to flow in for this new class — but today, the FEI has denied approval for it to go ahead as an internationally sanctioned section.
Their decision falls in line with Article 110 of the FEI General Regulations, which states that for international events: “Draft Schedules must be received by the FEI at the latest ten (10) weeks prior to the Event [and] Definite Schedules must reach the FEI at the latest four (4) weeks prior to the Event.”
The rulebook goes on to state that “ if the Schedule is approved by the NF the Final approved Schedule must reach the FEI two (2) weeks prior to the Event. The Schedules approved and published by the FEI shall be binding as if they were incorporated within the relevant Rules and/or Regulations. The FEI will not approve any Schedules when the closing dates for Entries have already passed.”
It’s that final line that may well be the clincher; though entries had been re-opened for Bicton following the announcement of its intention to run an additional class, its closing date officially was set as May 2.
However, there is some grey area in the rulebook, which suggests that exceptional circumstances could allow for some wiggle room to these timings. The rules here are written as follows: “Any subsequent changes must be brought to the attention of, and approved by, the FEI. Changes must be notified to the NFs concerned by the quickest possible means. In exceptional circumstances, together with the Approval of the Chefs d’Equipe, host NF delegate, if any, and the Ground Jury, the OC may change the schedule in order to clarify any matters arising from an omission or due to unforeseen circumstances. Any such changes must be notified to all Athletes and Officials as soon as possible and they must be reported to the FEI by the Foreign Judge.”
Bruce Haskell, Chairman of the Event Riders Association and an upper-level event rider in his own right, has penned the following plea to the FEI, urging them to reconsider their decision.
“We wish to make a personal appeal to the executive administration of the FEI to urgently reconsider the “un-approval” to allow British Eventing, through an application made officially by the BEF to allow additional FEI classes at Bicton 25-28 May 2023,” he writes.
“The unprecedented spring weather in the UK is well documented with the outright cancellation of both BE and FEI classes. This position has left athletes and owners short of venues for vital MER’s to progress both horse and riders or begin their FEI careers.
“Due to a combination of the increased cost of transport, Brexit and weather, UK athletes have an extremely limited number of FEI alternatives remaining on the spring calendar. The inclusion of Bicton at short notice would have been a perfect [solution].
“The decision to un-approve the additional classes has been made outside of the Bicton OC, British Eventing, British Equestrian Federation and the FEI Eventing Committee. The reason for un-approval sits within the legal process of the FEI.Rule number article 110 of the FEI general regulations.
“From a governance perspective it is clear that FEI Eventing does not have control of its own programme and that under the current FEI administration, the destiny of Eventing is determined by other non-related disciplines and the issues they have created in the past.
“As athletes we again appeal to the FEI administration to see sense especially as the request for additional classes will directly impact young athletes, young horses, recreational working athletes, in other words, your future FEI customers.”
The next scheduled CCI2*-S classes in Great Britain are set to take place at Belsay in Northumberland (31 May — 4 June), followed by Nunney in Somerset (June 16 – 18). Both are currently accepting international entries.