The FEI Board has suspended the National Federation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following a detailed investigation into the circumstances around two National Endurance Events (CEN) in January and February 2020 - the Sheikh Mohammed Cup and The President's Cup – that should have been held as International Endurance Events (CEIs) as the number of foreign athletes far exceeded the quota permitted for National Events.
Under Article 101 of the FEI General Regulations, National Events must be limited to no more than four National Federations (NF) and/or more than 15 foreign Athletes aside from “Athletes living outside their country of nationality” (Article 119.6 of the FEI General Regulations). However, in this particular case, the investigation led by Bird & Bird LLP, found that a total of 93 foreign Athletes from 24 different NFs participated in the 2020 Sheikh Mohammed Cup and total of 88 foreign Athletes from 21 different NFs participated in the 2020 President's Cup.
The FEI Board met via videoconference on 16 September to hear presentations from Bird & Bird and the UAE NF legal representatives. Legal counsel from both parties responded to questions from the FEI Board prior to the Board Members reaching their in-principle decision, which has been formally notified to the UAE NF on 24 September 2020.
The Board concluded that the UAE NF had violated the FEI Rules, in particular, Articles 101, 109.2 and 100.7.2 of the FEI General Regulations and Article 2.8 of the FEI Statutes (see Notes to Editors below). In the case of the Sheikh Mohammed Cup, the violations were deemed intentional, and in the case of the President’s Cup, the violations were considered at the very least negligent. The Board also concluded that the reason for re-classifying the events as CENs was to avoid the application of the new FEI Endurance Rules that were scheduled to take effect as of 1 January 2020.
Given the serious nature of the rule violations, the FEI Board unanimously agreed that a significant sanction was required and in accordance with Article 8.3 of the FEI Statutes, the UAE NF will be suspended with effect from 24 September 2020 as follows:
- A full suspension of the UAE NF (all activities across all FEI disciplines) until 31 December 2020
- A suspension of the UAE NF’s activities in relation to the discipline of Endurance until 31 March 2021
The suspension also affects any events (including national Events) in the UAE, which become “Unsanctioned Events” during the suspension period and any FEI Athlete, Horse or Official participating will be liable to a period of ineligibility of up to six months in accordance with Articles 113.4 and 155.7 of the FEI General Regulations.
The Board also imposed a financial sanction on the Organisers, requiring them to pay a percentage of the prize money – 50% for the Sheikh Mohammed Cup and 10% for The President’s Cup - as well as the organising dues that would have been payable to the FEI had the Events been held as CEIs. The Board also decided that the UAE NF must pay the FEI’s legal fees. The suspensions imposed on the UAE NF will remain in place until all financial sanctions have been paid in full to the FEI, as per Article 164.5 of the FEI General Regulations.
“The decision to suspend the UAE National Federation was not taken lightly, but it reflects our commitment to good governance, integrity and horse welfare”, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.
“Regrettably we were forced to suspend the UAE Federation in 2015 following an investigation into Endurance horse welfare issues and non-compliance with FEI Rules and Regulations. It is extremely disheartening that we are tackling similar issues in 2020 and that we have had to revert to the suspension of the National Federation. However, the UAE National Federation’s clear intent to avoid the application of the new Rules at the biggest events in their calendar was reflected in their actions around these two events and, as a community, we cannot allow individual NFs to apply the rules only as and when it suits them.
“It is my sincere hope that this suspension will drive change within the Federation and give rise to a new era for Endurance in the UAE equestrian community.”
The UAE National Federation was notified of the decision by the FEI on 24 September 2020 and has 21 days to appeal the decision to the FEI Tribunal.
Rules & Regulations
Article 2.8 of the FEI Statutes states:
It is a condition of membership that National Federations comply with, and are bound by the FEI Rules and Regulations including but not limited to the Statutes, General Regulations, Sport Rules (which include the FEI Human and Equine Anti-Doping Rules) and any Decision issued by the authorised bodies of the FEI in relation to the conduct of international equestrian Events, all of which shall also bind Organising Committees, Officials, Horse Owners, Persons Responsible, Athletes, team officials and other individuals and bodies involved in FEI Events.
In addition, by virtue of accepting an accreditation to an FEI Event, such person agrees to be bound by the FEI Rules and Regulations. National Federations are granted an exclusive license to use, modify, print and distribute as appropriate the documents referred to in this Article, which are FEI property, for the purpose of regulating Equestrian Sport within their national territory.
Article 100.7.2 of the FEI General Regulations states:
To ensure that all clubs and societies affiliated to NFs and all OCs abide by the GRs and Sport Rules when organising International Events or Competitions.
Article 101.1 of the FEI General Regulations states:
A National Event (CN) is limited to national Athletes who shall take part according to the regulations of their NF. Foreign Athletes may only take part, subject to the appropriate laws if applicable, as specified under paragraphs 2 and 3 below or under Article 119.
Article 101.3 of the FEI General Regulations states:
3.1 Not counting "Athletes Living Outside their Country of Nationality" (Article 119.6), a CN with more than 4 NFs and/or more than fifteen (15) foreign Athletes is allowed if it would be within the requirements of a CIM. If a CN under such conditions takes place, there will be no ranking or qualification points earned.
3.2 Any other CN with more than four (4) NFs and/or more than fifteen (15) foreign Athletes (not counting "Athletes Living Outside their Country of Nationality" as per Article 119.6) is not allowed [the Foreign Athlete Quota]. If a CN under such conditions takes place, there will be no ranking or qualification points earned. Furthermore, after consultation with the NF, the OC can be subject to further sanctions and eventually to a fine in an amount commensurate with the violation and taking into account the circumstances of the violation and possibly up to the total prize-money paid out at such Event, if any.
Article 109.2 of the FEI General Regulations states:
International Competitions may never be held under national rules.
Articles 113.4 of the FEI General Regulations states:
An Athlete and/or Horse, even if registered with the FEI, is not eligible to participate in an International Event or National Event (and so may not be invited by an OC to such Event or entered by an NF in such Event) if that Athlete and/or Horse has participated, in the six (6) months prior to the first day of the International Event or National Event in question, in an Unsanctioned Event.
Articles 155.7 of the FEI General Regulations states:
An Official is not eligible to participate in an International Event or National Event (and so may not be invited or nominated to participate in such event) if he/she has participated, in the six (6) months prior to the first day of the International Event or National Event in question, in an Unsanctioned Event.
The FEI Board is made up of the President, Ingmar De Vos (BEL); Vice President and Chair of the FEI Regional Group VIII, Jack C. Huang (TPE); Vice President and Chair Group IV, Mark Samuel (CAN); Chair of Group VII, Sami Al Duhami (KSA); Chair of Group V, Carmen Barrera (ESA); Chair of Group IX, Mary Binks (KEN); Chair of the Jumping Committee, Stephan Ellenbruch (GER); Chair of the Driving Committee, Karoly Fugli (HUN); Chair of Group VI, Luiz Roberto Giugni (BRA); Chair of the Athletes’ Committee, Maria Gretzer (SWE); Chair of the Veterinary Committee, Jenny Hall (GBR); Chair of the Dressage Committee, Frank Kemperman (NED); Chair of the Audit & Compliance Committee, Brian Mangan (IRL); Chair of the Eventing Committee, David O’Connor (USA); Vice President EEF Group Armagan Özgörkey (TUR); President EEF Group, Theo Ploegmakers (NED); Chair of Group III, Marina Sechina (RUS) and Chair of the Endurance Committee, currently filled by Dr Sarah Coombs (GBR), Chair of the Endurance Temporary Committee