Today the FEI issued a statement confirming rule 549.2 the “15 penalty rule” will remain unchanged for the remainder of the 2019 FEI eventing calendar and have issued further clarifications as to how this rule is to be applied.
We accept that we must follow FEI procedure and additionally accept that a full change to a FEI rule is not possible during a competition year unless based on the grounds of safety. The additional guidelines are a positive initiative by the FEI Eventing Committee to address uncertainty for athletes, officials and wider stakeholders but in our opinion do not go far enough.
The central issue remains as follows: the rule states that if any part of the body strays outside the line where the flag was originally positioned it should be penalised, therefore a horse who jumps the correct side of the flag but moves or dislodges it with the shoulder or pelvis is judged as not clear and is awarded 15 penalties.
Despite the over whelming majority of the Eventing Community sharing our view, we are all bound by a rule stating otherwise and today’s clarification does not change that.
The FEI Eventing athlete representative William Fox-Pitt requested the following clarification should be added: “the shoulder or body of the horse is permitted to move or dislodge the flag, and the horse should be judged clear so long as it has jumped the correct side of the flag”
Yesterday William Fox-Pitt wrote the following to the FEI Eventing Committee “I understand your position regarding the clarifications of the 15 penalty run out rule. As I have repeatedly stated I do not feel that this deals with the central issue at stake and my additions, which are the result of extensive consultation with riders from around the world, have not been incorporated. Regrettably, as the Rider representative I am unable to support the statement regarding the clarification”
Any rule should be clear, concise and easily understood by athletes and officials alike regardless of FEI level, location and access to technology. Even with the inclusion of the clarifications to rule 549.2 we, as riders, will be reliant on FEI ground juries to wilfully ignore the rule in cases where a horse drifts through a flag, in order to provide the result that we all feel is acceptable.
FEI Eventing athlete representative William Fox-Pitt, Chairman of the International Rider Working Group Harry Meade (representing the views of senior global riders), and the Eventing Riders Association International (ERA Int) have been overwhelmed by a consistent response from riders, officials, National Federations, event organisers and stakeholders from across the world. The message is the same. The definition of “clear” in the current rule is not sufficient in line with what riders feel is appropriate.
Since August 2018, at the rule’s inception, it was made clear to the FEI Eventing Committee that riders were opposed to the essence of the rule. That view was shared by the International Eventing Officials Club (IEOC) who expressed strong and similar views throughout the consultation period.
Please understand that we, along with the FEI eventing Committee and the FEI have been working hard to reach a satisfactory solution and in spite of falling short this far we will continue to do so.
Looking ahead to 2020 as an Olympic year, is it absolutely clear that for the good of the sport we all need a rule that is clear for the Eventing community and the new digital audience our sport appeals to.
We welcome the clarifications to rule 549.2 and openly thank all those who have inputted their valuable time and knowledge. We view the clarifications as a good starting point towards a workable rule for 2020 and beyond but urge the FEI Eventing Committee to remain open to change in the short term to ensure we can all live with a set of widely agreed guidelines for the remainder of 2019.
With the European championships, 5 high profile 5* competitions, Olympic team and individual qualifications and numerous regional FEI competitions at all levels left to play out in 2019, now is the time for consideration and change.
President of the Eventing Riders Association International.