No Penalty for Equestrians Competing in Global Champions League

No Penalty for Equestrians Competing in Global Champions League

Belgian Competition Authority Order

The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) is now in compliance with provisional measures imposed on the governing body of international equestrian sports. The FEI’s exclusivity clause is no longer in effect and the federation is providing immunity for horses and riders participating in the upcoming Global Champions League (GCL) competitions.

The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) ordered a partial suspension of the FEI’s exclusivity clause in July after GCL filed a complaint. It alleges the FEI was breaching EU competition law by preventing equestrians and their horses from competing in events not approved by the FEI.

The FEI exclusivity clause prohibited riders from taking part in any non-FEI approved event for a period of six months prior to their participation in an FEI-approved event. Global Champions League is now slated for a 2016 launch without FEI’s exclusive protection over the competition field.

Building on the success of the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT), Olympic and World Champions will head to show jumping arenas every Friday at 15 LGCT destination worthy locations around the world. Included is Miami, Florida in the U.S.

The FEI appealed the Belgian Competition Authority’s decision, but it was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Brussels. The Court of Appeal said the FEI failed to demonstrate that the injunction inflicted irreparable harm on the federation, that the FEI managed for more than a century without the clause, and failed to show why it was indispensable.

The FEI claimed its credibility would be undermined if GCL proceeded, but the Appeal court 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.”

Although now in compliance, FEI President Ingmar De Vos says nothing has changed and the legal fight isn’t over. “The GCL is still an unsanctioned event which is not approved by the FEI and we are still seeking a full annulment of the decision.”

Not everyone agrees with the FEI’s stance. Many believe competition, even for the FEI, is a good thing for show jumping. The world’s top riders, including Scott Brash who is ranked No 1 in the world and won Olympic Show Jumping gold in 2012 says he believes GCL team competition will be positive for the sport.

Leading US rider Kent Farrington, currently ranked No 2 in the world, said, “Jan [Tops] 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.”

The FEI’s suspension remains in effect until the case is heard, settled or disposed; the suspension is terminated, or the decision is annulled. No decision has been made based on the merits of the case.