Report from the EA Chair December 2015

Dear members,

Promotion of our equestrian sport confronts your EA Board every day.  Once every four years we have the opportunity to showcase our sport in the lead up to an Olympic Games.  The Australian International Three Day Event combined with the Equestrian Grand Final this month was a shining example of doing it well.

The coverage in the local media in the lead up to the event was outstanding and the event itself set in the middle of Adelaide city attracted an excited and exuberant crowd.

When Shane Rose came first and second in the four star, another unique record was created.  This event demonstrates what a great success the sport can chalk up when we combine our disciplines. Particular thanks to the volunteers who supported this very successful event. This offered a superb spectacle, from children having their first experience on a horse (though a Ready Set Trot carnival), to the Grand Prix Jumping which had the crowd on the edge of their seats.

Board Appointments

Your board has been involved in many complex events over the past six months.  After I assumed the Chair in June of this year, the EA Board filled a casual vacancy with David Lindh.  With the involvement of the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) a nominations committee recommended the appointment of two new directors and the nominations of Daniel Stoneman and Christopher Styring were unanimously accepted by the board. With existing board members Liza Carver and Mark Hopkinson returned, the Board now numbers eight. The EA Board is a skills based board and we now have a wide range of skills between us.

EA continues to work towards meeting the ASC’s mandatory sports governance principles, evidenced by the formation of a Board Nominations Committee and the appointment of an independent Chair for this committee in Jeff Dimery (CEO of Alinta Energy). The Board Nominations Committee will be a permanent Committee and will consist of Jeff along with two board members, a state representative as well as a representative from the Australian Sports Commission. 

CEO Appointment

Grant Baldock, CEO for five and a half years resigned from his position in August.  He has been absolutely supportive in the appointment of a new CEO and in maintaining the functioning of the EA Office whilst we sort a new leader.  I am pleased to say that on the 27th of November with the unanimous support of all board members we appointed Ms Paula Ward to the position of CEO. Paula will be in the office from the 5th January 2016 (In the meantime and prior to Ms Ward’s commencement in the CEO role, EA’s Finance Manager Daniel Griffiths will assume the position of Acting CEO). EA was assisted through the international recruitment process by ‘Sportspeople’ and the Australian Sports Commission which provided invaluable assistance. Paula’s appointment was made from 51 applicants. 

FEI General Assembly

Chris Webb, High Performance Manager and I attended the General Assembly of the FEI.  The group 8 countries in which Oceana is included offer great opportunities for involvement in coaching, officials training, competition support and innovation.  This is a challenge we should not ignore and I am looking forward to working with our sports to investigate ways in which we can accomplish this through the FEI’s “Solidarity Program”.

It was a very proud moment for Australia and Driving when Boyd Exell won the FEI Reem Acra Best Athlete award. Boyd did us proud not only by his outstanding performances this year but also by his humble but delighted acceptance of the honour.

Now for the hard questions put to the General Assembly:

The Olympic Committee requires all sports to consider how to best tailor sports involved in the Olympic Games to adapt their formats in a way which will encourage the viewing public to fully understand and enjoy the excitement and exhilaration available to a television audience.

The FEI has taken this request very seriously and is intending to spend $3.5 million promoting Equestrian sport in countries of dense population. You may wonder why the dense population is such a vital factor.  It is because the IOC will assess each sport according to a laid down set of criteria.  Significantly, television appeal and viewing numbers is a critical measure by which all sports will be assessed.

In the FEI President’s words “Doing nothing is not an option if Equestrian wants to remain involved in the Olympic Games.”

So the question must be asked, what responsibility do we have in Australia to support the cause? Our National Discipline Committees and State Branches will also play a vital role in this process.

During the General Assembly there were a considerable number of rule changes proposed.  We were able to discuss these with other Federations. Many of the original proposals were amended, for example the proposed changes to the dressage rules regarding penalties for ‘course errors’  The results are available on the FEI website – available here

Australia was able to support NZ in putting the case to the FEI to reconsider the “Retire at 70-72 “rule for judges and officials. We were able to propose that consideration might be given to a re-assessment/re-accreditation process for judges and officials, a little like the requirements for the renewal of driver’s licence.  Australia will join forces with NZ in preparing the case at the FEI Sports Forum in April 2016. 

In the year ahead I hope EA can provide service to the states our members.  EA Board members have aspirations to advance the quality of our competitions by continuing to provide financial and practical support to event organisers.  There are clearly opportunities for events which offer public spectacle by combining our events.  Your board members are inspired to support these efforts.    Just as the FEI is a service organization for Equestrian Federations worldwide, EA is Australia’s service provider for Equestrian Sport.

We have a strong united board, with a new CEO, bold plans and enthusiasm in spades.  I most sincerely hope we can exploit for the advancement of our sport.

Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. 

Judy Fasher,

Chair, Equestrian Australia