FEI Abolishes Associate Membership

Sat, 11/10/2012 - 10:51
FEI Dressage News

At the FEI General Assembly 2012 in Istanbul (TUR) today 252 delegates (104 National Federations – 80 in person and 24 by proxy) voted to abolish FEI Associate Membership. This abolition is not only a blow to the democratic process, but also substantially reduces the stakeholders clubs' ability to organise, poll and represent their members.

The fact that National Federations would be voting on the Associate Membership only became publicly known two weeks ago. International stakeholders clubs such as the IDTC and IDRC were astonished by this decision as it would muffle their voice and influence within the FEI as governing stakeholder bodies.

The cloaked reason for abolition of the Associate Membership by FEI was to eliminate 'troublemakers" in the system following the legal dispute they had with the IDRC over Rider representation within the FEI Dressage Committee.

The FEI will now set up a system of popularity voting to obtain an athlete's representive per discipline. Unfortunately the individual chosen will have no structure to support or communicate with his stakeholders' group. Surprisingly the FEI believes that this will help "to develop a system for bespoke and effective interaction with its key stakeholders"

At the end of the day at the General Assembly, the FEI communicated the following about dropping its asscoiates:

"With the changing landscape of the FEI and the growth of equestrian sport, it was important for the FEI to develop a system for bespoke and effective interaction with its key stakeholders. Individual Memorandums of Understanding with the Athletes’ Clubs and other key stakeholder groups that better suit their needs are being put in place. The Associate Members do not lose any rights under this new system, they have gained increased rights, and will still be able to attend the GA.

Over the last several years, it has become increasingly apparent that the Associate Member concept is not working effectively as there were no clear criteria for becoming an FEI associate member nor were there established obligations for the FEI to deliver to its associate members. In addition, the Associate Members were so diverse and their needs so different from one another that it was not efficient to create rules and structures to apply to all Associate Members under one umbrella. Therefore the GA approved the Bureau’s proposal to remove the associate membership category and replace it with what it considers to be a more constructive formula for interacting with its stakeholders through the direct election of Athletes, recognition of Continental Associations, and Memorandums of Understanding with the Athletes Clubs and other key stakeholder groups.

Athletes’ representative per discipline

The athletes’ representatives on the FEI Technical Committees will be elected via an online vote by the registered athletes in each discipline. This will ensure a much higher representation from the athletes. The elections will be done via the FEI athletes’ registration system and specific procedural rules will be applicable. There is already an athlete on the FEI Executive Board, and by doing this the FEI has made the athletes part of its governance structure, mirroring the IOC Athletes’ Commission."

International Stakeholders Clubs React

Eurodressage requested a reaction from three of the largest, international stakeholders club on this major change within the FEI.

Kyra Kyrklund, president of the International Dressage Riders' Club (IDRC) stated that "the FEI has had no discussion with the IDRC before this happened, we have not had any Memorandum of Understanding and we have lost the right to appoint an athlete's representative.  This is a sad day for riders, a sad day for democracy and a sad day for the FEI. We are frankly astonished that the FEI is trying to dress-up the removal of the democratic right of riders to effective representation as an improvement to the sport."

Kyrklund stressed that each of the stakeholder clubs exists solely to present the interests of their members, and the larger group they represent, to the FEI.  "This allows an effective communications channel and a natural complement to the National Federations.  Without a direct voice at FEI level, the FEI fails to give voice to the interests of the main participants in equestrian sport. The athlete's representative must be an effective channel for the view of all athletes and needs to be focused by an athletes' organisation.  How can one rider represent all riders if they do not have an organisation behind them?  Now, it seems they don't even need to be a member of the Club, hence they can only represent themselves. We wrote to the FEI on 31st October 2012  but we have not received any response."

Thomas Bauer, secretary-general of the Association of International Dressage Events Organizers (AIDEO), is more positive about the change:

"We have been in close contact with the FEI during the past weeks to sort out what is behind the idea to abolish Associate Membership. The answers we got from Lisa Lazarus and Ingmar de Vos were encouraging and we believe that it is a chance for both the FEI and the stakeholders to come to something better than we had in the past. The Memorandum of Understanding which will be worked out together with the FEI will not only keep our rights, it will increase them and clear obligations for both will be established.

Eleonora Ottaviani, director of the International Jumping Riders' Club, told Eurodressage that she is "tired, upset or better sick" after attending the GA in Istanbul. "The Jumping Riders' representative, including (the club's president) Cayetano Martinez de Irujo left the FEI GA after 10 minutes from the start. They feel really hurt." Ottaviani added that the IJRC will be issuing a statement this week on their feelings and thoughts about the abolition of the Associate Membership.

Text by Astrid Appels

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