Cancellation of the 2025 European Championships

The FEI risks losing the European Show Jumping, Eventing and Para-Dressage Championships planned for next year – because no one has come forward to organize them.

Historically, all major and minor FEI Championship events – 28 in total worldwide this year – have been awarded three years or more in advance, after a competitive bidding process that anyone can follow. online.

But in recent years, there has been a sharp decline in the number of organizers willing to hire them. Aside from the 2025 Europeans, there is still no interest in winning the FEI World Challenge Final this year or next year.

Aachen was the only candidate for the 2026 World Dressage and Show Jumping Championships – and was not the only venue to be awarded a major medal event unopposed; more than half of the European Championships since 2013 have been awarded to a single candidate. It is also unclear whether the controversial 2019 award of last month’s FEI World Cup final to Saudi Arabia was even put out to tender.

A chart showing offers received.A chart showing offers received.

FEI President Ingmar de Vos said it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to get organizers to bid as he introduced a debate on the subject at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week. A panel of organizers and business experts, including Michael Stone from Wellington International, presented the pros and cons.

Herning – host of the 2022 World Dressage and Show Jumping Championships for the first time since 1990 – was excited to do it again. But there was a salutary moment when debate moderator Tim Hadaway, FEI director of games and operations, asked CHIO Rotterdam audience member Joyce Heuitink if she would apply for more championships if the format or financial obligations were relaxed. Apologizing for his “Dutch frankness”, Heuitink replied “No”, adding that Rotterdam had lost money, even with government subsidies. (Since 1957, Rotterdam has hosted five European Show Jumping Championships, including the very first, two in dressage and one in para-dressage, as well as the “Alternative Olympic Games” following the Moscow boycott in 1980.)

FEI legal advisor Aine Power outlined the obligations currently placed on a championship organizer and mentioned possible disincentives, including concerns about public perception if something were to go wrong during a championship event. such an important event, following the change in attitude towards the social license to operate horse riding. Others mentioned the fear of a new pandemic or bad weather leading to abandonment: insurance is now unaffordable in certain countries, particularly for eventing in the United Kingdom.

Another burden is the obligation of the championship organizer to ensure television production while ceding broadcasting rights to the FEI.

It has been noted that in a post-Olympic year, some top show jumping riders may prefer to skip the European Championships, which do not have an Olympic qualification target, in favor of more lucrative 5* competitions. However, François Mathy Jr, president of the International Jumping Riders Club, stressed that for most, the medal remained of great importance. “This is where the real sport is, no one can buy entry,” he said.

There was a discussion about the relevance of some medal events today. While acknowledging that this suggestion “would not be popular”, FEI general secretary Sabrina Ibanez questioned whether events could be staged over fewer days with a cap on numbers, similar to the quota system at the Games. Olympics, to provide more certainty to organizers and numbers. and therefore the costs.

Soenke Lauterbach, general secretary of the German FN, stressed that they should be kept because the general public understands what a championship is.

Longines, the FEI’s first partner, participates in financing the World Cup final and the world show jumping championship, but without a guaranteed contribution from Lausanne. The Italian federation’s general secretary, Simone Perillo, called for risk-sharing between the FEI and organizers, saying the business model required “radical” change.

The FEI did not disclose the additional organizing fees charged to organizers, considered substantial, but there was frank discussion about other unsustainable costs, including wasted food and accommodation that championship organizers provide riders and officials – the latter also with pre-visits to event venues. Should we appoint so many judges? There are seven at the World Show Jumping Championships, eight in dressage, 13 in endurance and eight in vault (not counting other official and vet levels.)

Daniela Garcia Nigaglioni, Secretary General of the Pan American Equestrian Confederation (PAEC) and team leader of the Mexican team, said: “We all love this sport and want to make it known. But I also think it’s a business and you have to make money from it, and if that doesn’t happen, there won’t be any bidders. People (participants) should contribute a little for themselves.

“Providing accommodation and meals is very ’90s.’ During the last world championships, no runners stayed at the hotel that the organizers had given us. In some countries what can be provided will be better than in others; if you find yourself in a two or three star hotel, you will move. I also don’t remember any of my athletes going to the athlete lounge to grab a bite to eat. This is way too much money to waste. »

The FEI will set up a working group to study solutions. To date, the only obligation recently lifted has been to allow organizers not to offer accommodation to grooms if it is too far from the event site and if the grooms prefer to stay in their truck to be close of their horses.