Dubai: Show jumping in the region has received a major boost following a new ruling by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the sport’s governing body, to increase the number of World Cup qualifying places for riders representing the Arab League.
FEI members unanimously voted during the annual FEI congress hosted by the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club to split the Arab League into two regions — paving the way for an additional two qualifying spots.
Previously three spots were available for nations from the entire Arab League, which includes countries spread across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.
The new qualifying format has created three qualifying spots for countries in the Middle East and two separate places for countries in the North African belt.
Additionally, riders are now eligible to carry forward points from competitions outside their qualifying zones into their own zonal qualifying platform.
More show jumping events
As a result, this would allow them to compete in more show jumping events across the region.
Ingmar De Vos, President of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), said that the FEI meeting was a big success and that the body had created a sustainable structure for the sport to grow.
“We had an important meeting to discuss the future of the FEI World Cup jumping competitions here in the region and invited all the national federations of the countries involved (132) and I think we have arrived at some very good conclusions,” the Belgian said.
“The systems had been in existence for 14 years, while the sport continued to evolve and we have seen great developments in all these countries, so we have now decided to divide the Arab League qualifiers into two and to also give two more spots to the region at the World Cup.
“I think we have found good solutions that have made everybody happy and gives everybody an equal chance to organise and qualify. I think we have now created a structure for the sport to grow further in the future and we are looking forward to the outcome of that.”
De Vos, 54, is the third and current President of the FEI he took over the Presidency from Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2014.
A professional sports manager, De Vos said he was impressed by the professionalism under which the Olympic sport of show jumping is conducted in the UAE.
He paid a special tribute to the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, and its General Manager, Sultan Al Yahya’ie, highlighting their hosting of the CSI5* HH Ruler of Sharjah Cup International Show Jumping Championships presented by Longines and the CSI3* Sharjah Grand Prix also presented by Longines.
“I think organisers here are doing a very fine job of putting together events like these which have caught the attention of riders from around the world,” he remarked.
“We have not only World Cup competitions here, but also qualifiers for the Longines FEI Nations Cup which leads up to the final in Barcelona.
“But what is important is that there are a lot of smaller competitions for [up-and-coming] riders based here and this will give a good push to enhance the quality of jumping competitions.”
It is understood, that a final decision on the extra berths for the Arab League will be made by the FEI Jumping Committee at the FEI Bureau in March.
John Roche, the FEI Director of Jumping, explained.
“I haven’t been in the country for nearly seven years but when I compare that time with what I can see today they are worlds apart,” he said.
“The level of riding has improved so much and the quality of jumping here is absolutely world class now. It’s fantastic that the sport has developed and progressed so much in the entire region is fantastic and it is very, very rewarding to see this and to be here.
“We wanted to know where we are and where we would like to go in the future and I genuinely believe that we had a very successful meeting and we have a very clear vision in relation to where we want to go in the future.”
Al Yahya’ie, who was eagerly anticipating the decision on the extra qualifying berths for the region, was delighted with the FEI congress decision and said: “Wen the Arab League started there was only one spot for countries here. And then it went up to three. And now we will be having five, which is really good."
“After the FEI has witnessed what’s happening at this competition they are very proud to have made the right decision to award two more spots to the region,” Al Yahya’ie added.
Patrick Aoun, Regional Brand Manager, Longines Middle East, highlighted the Swiss watch maker’s partnership with show jumping in the region.
“We have been doing it for so long that we believe, very deeply, that equestrian sport shares our core values. So when you identify your core values you know where to go,” he said
Longines’ involvement in equestrian sports includes showjumping, flat racing and endurance competitions.
The Swiss brand is the FEI’s first Top Partner as well as Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of the FEI.
This partnership reinforces the traditional and long-lasting commitment of the Swiss watchmaker in equestrian sports.
Longines is official timekeeper of the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018 and 2022. Longines will also be the title partner of the FEI World Cup Jumping.