Today is the last day of November, a month that is used for the 'Movember' campaign to generate funds for prostate cancer research. Recently-elected NSW Chairman Derek Major invited me to join his team and I was happy to do so, albeit seven days late. With light hair like mine, it is hard to notice the growth until well into the month. Still, people close to me will be pleased when the 'mo' comes off tomorrow morning.
FEI General Assembly
Some of you will have kept up with developments at this year's Assembly in rainy Copenhagen and the controversy it caused in relation to the 'progressive list'.
It was certainly an unusual Assembly, the 11th (and probably last) I have attended, and the first for our new President Paul Cargill.
As usual, NFs are swamped with masses of documents in the lead-up to the Assembly, which was to introduce major reforms in governance and other areas. A number of the most important issues for decision underwent major revisions shortly before the Assembly, thus providing little opportunity to discuss key elements with stakeholders at home and overseas. As a result, votes often had unexpected results.
The Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA), during which changes to Statutes are approved, had been separated from the 'Ordinary General Assembly' and brought forward by two days. Subject to the approval of changes to the Statutes, the move was to enable the election of the new Board of 7 to replace the current Bureau of 17 members mainly representative of the FEI Regional Groups and the Technical Committees.
The Nomination Committee had put forward a list to fill the 6 vacancies on the new Board, including the Athlete Director. After receiving feedback from various National Federations (NFs), the FEI amended the proposed new Statutes allowing for all 13 Board nominees to be put to the vote and limiting the number of people from anyone Group to 1. By coincidence, there were representatives from five Groups on the Ballot to fill five vacancies. It is, however, quite possible that the field of candidates would have looked different if the new provision had been in the draft Statutes before nominations closed.
The late change to the proposed Statutes led to intense discussion before and during the EGA. The vote was, however, quite clear. Not only did the new Statutes not reach the required two-third majority, they were actually rejected by a majority of NFs. There was, therefore, no election of a new FEI Board and my job as Chairman of Scrutineers for the Assembly became somewhat easier.
Had the late amendments been put to a separate vote first, they would have been rejected but there would have been a chance for the original version of the new Statutes to be adopted. I cannot understand why this path was not taken.
As it stands, new Statutes will, according to the FEI President, not be presented again to the General Assembly for another two years. In the meantime, plans and budgets will be adjusted to the continuation of present governance arrangements including the large Bureau.
Following the FEI's Clean Sport campaign led by the Ljungqvist and Stevens Commissions, the 2009 FEI GA was supposed to be the culminating point at which a new Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication system was to be put in place. The new regulations more clearly separated 'Doping' substances from 'Medications' and new comprehensive lists made it easier to identify substances. Management processes and sanctions were brought more in line with those under the World Anti-Doping Code.
During a well-attended 'Clean Sport' workshop the day before the actual General Assembly, which was to vote on the new system, there was intense debate about the late notice the FEI had given of the so-called 'progressive list' of substances, which included threshold levels for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), and the fact that these drugs were to be allowed during competition within these limits. All major Equestrian NFs spoke against this list and warned that the introduction of limited use of medication during competition would completely overshadow any gains from the 'clean sport' campaign, harm the image of the sport and lose sponsorship. At the end of the session the general feeling was that the original list would be favoured by NFs over the 'progressive list'.
During the General Assembly, NFs first voted overwhelmingly for the new system and for the adoption of the recommendations of the Commissions.
When it came to the decision on which list to adopt, there was - amazingly - no further discussion of the pros and cons of the two lists before the vote was taken, not even in the form of a summary statement. The vote, a choice between the 'current list' and the 'progressive list', had 53 NFs vote for the 'progressive list' and 48 for the other. A change of three votes would have produced the opposite result.
The vote caused many NFs to stand up and deplore the decision. Various attempts ensued to have the vote re-taken, none of them successful. It became obvious, however, that many NFs had not attended the forum held the day before and were not aware of the strong opposition of European nations to the 'progressive list'. There had also been some lobbying and vote-trading by a group of NFs that supported the 'progressive list', and other factors may also have played a role. The fact is that a vote was taken and that the 'progressive list' was adopted, however narrowly. The joys of democracy.
The fall-out in the European press has been substantial. It remains to be seen what the real consequences of the 'list' are going to be. Let's hope that what started as a very positive process, namely to have a 'clean sport', will in the end deliver the right result. The FEI Bureau, FEI management and NFs all have a chance to influence the direction.
We in Australia will need to decide our own destiny regarding the 'progressive list' and allowing low levels of NSAID during competition, at least in National competition.
Jumping Qualification System for the 2012 London Olympic Games
Another major disappointment from the General Assembly is the fact that Group VIII/Olympic Group G members like Australia, New Zealand and the Asian nations will have to face tough competition from Olympic Group C (Eastern Europe, Middle East and some other Asian nations) for the two team spots at the Olympic Games that were so far reserved for Group G. Put simply, Group G 'got done' as there had never been a chance to have the new arrangements overturned. The most disconcerting fact is that the plan was devised ealier this year but was kept from us until September when it was listed for a vote at the General Assembly.
There is still some hope that a case to the IOC for an additional participant quota, which is currently being prepared by the FEI, will meet with some success and provide for the spots Group C so wanted.
FEI Awards and Functions
The 'social program' of the General Assembly consisted of two parts: the Welcome Dinner on Monday hosted by Princess Benedikte and the Danish Federation at the Royal Reception Rooms at Christiansborg Palace, and the FEI Awards Ceremony and Official Dinner on Thursday in the famous Tivoli Gardens fair grounds. Having been taken for a ride with the Jumping Qualification system in the afternoon, we were not too keen on going to the amusement park but it turned out to be okay.
The highlight of the Award Ceremony for us was Michelle Robson accepting the Best Groom award, one of the new categories of FEI Awards created in 2009. Congratulations, Michelle!
For other news from the General Assembly, please go to the FEI web.
Stuttgart German Masters
While in Europe I took the opportunity to visit the Stuttgart German Masters, one of the best Indoor events in Europe. The show, now in its 25th year, is directed by FEI O-Level Dressage Judge Gotthilf Riexinger, who has judged at the Sydney CDI on a number of occasions and whose staff helped our new President Paul Cargill and me with accreditation and accommodation.
The show featured five Olympic Disciplines: Indoor Express Eventing (Clayton and Lucinda took part on borrowed horses), Vaulting, Carriage Driving (Boyd Exell won the World Cup Qualifier) and 5-Star Dressage and Jumping (Hayley Beresford and Edwina Alexander participated). You can find some reports and photos on our web. I should add that Edwina finished as the best-performed female rider of the event.
One of the great attractions was to see Moorelands Totilas and Edward Gal do another outstanding performance and again receive a score that clearly separated them from their competition. Call me what you like but I would love to have a biomechanical study done on this horse and a few of his top challengers to find out more precisely what makes him so special and whether Dressage is moving into a new direction.
It was interesting to see the non-competition entertainment provided by the event, which sold out most seats for most sessions. The presentations gave every rider as chance to 'shine' in front of an enthusiastic audience, including a parade before the various World Cup events. Children on massive cold bloods always make a good picture (even when they don't wear helmets and ride bareback) and to see four six-in-hand carriages go through their paces can make your heart stop.
The attitude to risk appears to be more different over there, and one has to admire the show organisers for staging such an excellent event in conditions and surroundings that are not really made for horses. Everyone seemed to know how to behave around horses and carriages, on the road, on footpaths and in parking lots.
The show was a particularly good opportunity for Paul Cargill to meet some of our top competitors in Europe. He also had a chance to sit down with Boyd to talk about his Driving engagement during the European Indoor season and his plans for the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Boyd will be giving a clinic in Australia in January.
Animal Health Australia membership
I am pleased to advise that Equestrian Australia has been admitted as a separate member of Aninal Health Australia (AHA). I have been working towards achieving this since the outbreak of Equine Influenza in late 2007, when it became apparent that equestrian sport needed to have independent input into policy and decision-making at the highest level. Although EFA/EA have regularly been invited to 'sit at the table' in various forums, including the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and the AQIS Horse Industry Consultative Committee, its position in the 'industry' had not been formally recognised until now.
Membership of AHA and participation in various forums also brings with it a number of responsibilities, something we always need to be aware of. A constructive contribution to the debate on how to structure an equitable levy system that enables the signing of the Emergency Animal Diseases Response Agreement (EADRA) is just one example.
Biosecurity Australia has released a report on an Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for the importation of horses from approved countries and is giving stakeholders 60 days to respond and comment. Interested parties can download the 440+ page report from the DAFF web site. Equestrian Australia will provide its own input in due course.
I take this opportunity to advise that daily charges at the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station will increase to $196 under the cost recovery program operated by AQIS.
The 'Crawford Report'
Equestrian Australia will make official comment in the near future regarding the Independent Sport Panel Report (Crawford Report), which was released on 17 November (see also news item below). The full report can be found at www.sportpanel.org.au.
The Australian Olympic Committee has established a study group, which will meet on 02 December, and the Australian Sports Commission is convening a forum on 15 December, in which we will take part.
Events in December
There is always some 'bunching' of events at the close of the year. Next weekend sees the National Show Horse and Rider Championships at Werribee together with the Lakes and Craters CCI at Camperdown (Vic.) and the Upper Murray Endurance Challenge. The following weekend, we have Dressage Festival including the Pacific League World Cup Dressage Final and a Para-Equestrian Qualifier at Werribee, and the ISS Summer Jumping Classic at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre. And then, it is almost Christmas.
The National Office will close at noon on Wednesday, 23 December 2009, and will re-open on Tuesday, 05 January 2010.
Supporters and Sponsors
Before I close, though, I would like to thank our funding agencies, sponsors and supporters for their continued assistance. The Australian Sports Commission is our Principal Sponsor and we hope that High Performance funding and other grants will continue beyond the next funding cycle.
Many thanks also to the Australian Olympic Committee, who apart from organising the Australian Delegation to go to the Games is also involved in securing more funding to guarantee Australia's medal success at future Games.
We are also looking forward to a continued good working relationship with the Australian Paralympic Committee in the management of the Para-Equestrian high performance program.
We hope our partnerships with our commercial sponsors can be strengthened further in the next Olympiad. We are pleased that Kentucky Equine Research and Ridley have renewed their partnership deal with EA.
So in summary, we would like to mention
For more news and other information, please visit our 'new' web www.equestrian.org.au or your 'new' State Branch web (www.[state].equestrian.org.au).
Make it a good day!
Chief Executive Officer