I have long thought that running championships 3 out of every 4 years, has a profound and slightly negative effect on the domestic eventing circuits. The withdrawal of 2 horses from Burghley today, that were also on the GBR Team for next month’s AllTech FEI World Equestrian Games, has got me thinking “do we really need this many championships?”
We have Olympics, WEG, and Continentals, and personally I don’t really see the need for the latter. We end up with a bunch of continental championships that, in most cases, produce little positive benefit or significant competition compared to say Badminton, Burghley, Blenheim, Bokelo or Luhmuhlen. Take the Europeans for example, probably one of the most hotly contested continentals. In Europe (notably the UK) we have a number of non European riders based here, who regularly take top 10 ten placings at the 4 stars, but can’t compete in the Europeans. Now to my mind that means the domestic circuits have far more appeal to rider, spectator and sponsor alike.
I think we would be far better off spending all the cash and resources from continental championships on the domestic circuits’ 3 & 4 star CCIs to grow the sport, both as a sport and as a commercial industry. I know many other non equestrian sports hold continental Championships, and even a Commonwealth Games, but these have completely different sporting dynamics in place.
Looking through the FEI qualifications for an Olympics, I can’t find any “ah, that’s why…” reasons for holding these continentals that couldn’t otherwise be fulfilled by current 3 & 4 star events, so really what’s the point?
I’ve attended a few European Championships now, in an official capacity and whilst there is a buzz of excitement, it’s nothing compared to the excitement of cross country day at Badminton, or even probably Burghley.
I think we do need a World Championships (WEG), as this gives so many nations their 15 minutes of fame, and some decent riders the opportunity to ‘represent their country’ that isn’t always possible under Olympic rules, and the Olympics is the pinnacle for many, although, I have to say, personally I’d rather be handed the Badminton Trophy than the Olympic Gold if forced to choose (which I never will!).
It’s the disruption to, what would otherwise be, a nicely balanced event calendar in many countries for all concerned that I think is the main reason for wanting to drop the continentals, and it must be very disheartening for any event organiser running an Autumn 3 or 4* CCI when, if you’re lucky, you get one year in four to take centre stage. The whole ‘team’ competition thing is another story, but that’s a subject for another day.
oh, and I am of course only talking about senior team competition in this post. Young Rider, Pony, etc. continental championships are very useful experience on the way to the top.