29 April 2010

Swedish Equestrian Federation Makes it Official

The Swedish Equestrian Federation made the official announcement today that Sven Holmberg, FEI 1st Vice President and Chair of the FEI Jumping Committee, will stand for election to the FEI presidency against HRH in November. They have put out a strong statement against what happened in Copenhagen, which we applaud. As usual, Häst is also not mincing words. We're glad there's another option; however we're disappointed that Mr. Holmberg did not use Geneva as an opportunity to further differentiate himself from HRH at least by remaining silent, especially when his entirely appropriate outrage over the General Assembly had been so, uh...vividly expressed. So we can only conclude that either he agrees with HRH's activities at the World Cup Final, or he was just being a good boy and falling in line. That he is running against her would seem to suggest it's not the latter, which is concerning.

The problem in Geneva was the same problem that existed in Copenhagen: a president out of control. Whether it takes place in an office or on the field of play, it's the same beast. Anyone who agrees with what went on in Geneva is unfit for the FEI presidency, even if they think the guy was indeed up to something. Plenty of people are up to something, but it's for the event officials to decide, without political interference, period. This cannot be negotiable. And anyone who plays footsie with her under the conference table to get what they want by any means necessary (e.g., NSAIDs) must accept they played a role in creating the monster that just came back to bite them in the arse. It's still corruption, even when it gets you what you want. You can't pick and choose and say, "Oh, we don't like that kind of corruption." You can't have it both ways. You're either for it or you're against it; pick a side.

HRH formally announced her re-election bid back in March, which was almost entirely overlooked by the equestrian media. We sort of got the feeling she didn't want to make a big deal of it and didn't even notify them. The mainstream press reports consistently noted that HRH was responsible for the introduction of term limits for the presidency, so that must have been part of her own press release. That change was great and much needed (of course, it could always be changed again later if it suits). But we are reminded that there was another huge change in the FEI Statutes that was introduced at the same time and never got any press at all, even though the negative consequences of it have been seen time and again. We think it's very relevant at this juncture.

In 2007 the president suddenly became "the ultimate head of the FEI," when no such language existed in the Statutes before. The president was a figurehead, not the "ultimate head." The General Assembly of the National Federations remains the "supreme authority of the FEI," which would seem to present a conflict. So who is in charge, the "ultimate head," or the "supreme authority"? Well, the "supreme authority" only gets together once a year, so how do you think that plays out the other 51 weeks?

Since we know how much the FEI loves it when excerpts from publicly available documents are...gasp...brought to public attention, here you can compare the version in effect in 2006, when HRH was elected, and the changed 2007 version which she put forth for NF approval with a rather plaintive speech:
2006 version
Article 008.1 The General Assembly in session under the Statutes is the supreme authority of the FEI.

Article 025.3 The President will maintain close contact with National Federations and with the various constituencies of the FEI and will represent the FEI in its relationships with other International Federations, the IOC and any other bodies and individuals.

2007 version
Article 9 Composition
9.1 The General Assembly of the National Federations is the supreme authority of the FEI.

Article 22 President and Vice Presidents
22.3 The President shall maintain close contact with the National Federations and with the various constituencies of the FEI in its relationship with other sports, the IOC and other organizations and individuals as appropriate. The President is the ultimate head of the FEI.
Now, if you were the "ultimate head of the FEI," wouldn't you feasibly get the odd notion that you could e.g., possibly disqualify (and retroactively eliminate) a horse by presidential decree, or e.g., propose a profoundly important and controversial rule change six days prior to the vote even though the Statutes require an advance six-week consulation period for the draft and then a month to review the final version? And then there was that appalling dressage committee business. And all the financial shenanigans. And the totally preventable "doping crisis." And the firings of essential staff. It goes on...

It was definitely not just an afterthought; she gave her newfound status special billing on her FEI webpage:
The FEI President is elected by the General Assembly for a maximum of two terms of four years each. The President is the ultimate head of the FEI.
Of course, the NFs voted for this crap so they bear that responsibility, which is a whole other subject that we're sure to get to at some point. We do know they were still under the influence when they voted for it, so that counts for something.

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