Princess Haya of Jordan remained adamant today, Nov. 7, that she would not seek a further term as president of the Fédération Equestre Internationale despite a plea from 100 national federations.
In a surprise move, the FEI General Assembly in Montreux, Switzerland, called an extraordinary general assembly on April 29 where the one-off motion to amend statutes and allow a third presidential term can be decided.
However, afterwards Princess Haya said that although she was aware of the proposal coming into the week, her views about a maximum two-term presidency—expressed in a formal statement on Sept. 19—remained the same.
“I’ve made my statement. It’s not my place to accept or to not accept, that’s my belief,” she said. “Now the national federations have a different idea.
“Right now I do not want to think about the presidency anymore, I want to do my job. I know this is an interesting story for the media, but it is a distraction for me. The president who does the best job, and what I aspire to be, is the one who makes themselves redundant,” she added, saying she hopes that by the end of her second term in November 2014 the FEI is an institution that can apply its own checks and balances and generate commercial revenue streams “because of the product it has.”
Before the General Assembly, some national federations had briefed the European media that they would be calling for Haya to resign because of the horse welfare crisis in endurance riding in the Middle East, where stables owned by her husband and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed, and other members of the Maktoum family have featured in over 20 doping cases before the FEI Tribunal since 2005.
However, that mood changed dramatically yesterday when the endurance strategic planning group, set up by Haya in July, presented comprehensive measures more hard-hitting than expected to reduce the catalogue of doping offenses and horse injuries in the Middle Eastern sport.
Haya herself brought in the two-term limit in 2006, but earlier this year, the FEI regional chairs proposed the statues be changed. She was at first expected to accept such a modification, but then, after the Swiss equestrian federation made public their “conflict of interest claims,” she released a statement through the FEI annoucing that she would not seek a third term.
She wrote: “I cannot in good conscience put aside my beliefs and the commitment I made seven years ago now that the term limit I supported applies to me. I am deeply grateful to all the national federations that favor changing the statutes to allow me a third term. I am confident they will understand why I feel I must keep my word.”
The petition, started by Taipei, was signed by 100 of the FEI’s 132-member national federations, though Britain, Germany, Switzerland, France and Holland were notable absentees.
Keith Taylor, British Equestrian Federation president, explained its absence on the ambiguous wording of the proposal. Delegates from Belgium—who led calls for action on endurance—Mauritius and Sudan spoke passionately about Haya’s other achievements from the floor.
Media coverage of the endurance crisis was criticized by some delegates, including the Taipei representative who said the media should not “dictate” the direction of the sport. John Long, CEO of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, said: “It’s ironic to think that, from the media perspective, we were told that we would be coming here to seek her resignation, but in reality we’re seeking her return.”
However Haya said afterwards she thought media reporting of the endurance issues, which have brought malpractices in the sport to public attention, had been “fair.”
“Things have come to a level where solutions have to be found,” she said. “We have all brought this issue to a place where failure cannot be an option, and that can only be a good thing.”
Lord Stevens, a former London police chief whose intelligence company, Quest, provides the FEI integrity services, also delivered a broadside to those who have questioned why he is separately working for Sheikh Mohammed. Quest is investigating who was responsible for the illegal veterinary drugs seized from Sheikh Mohammed’s plane and premises in Newmarket this summer. The previous day, Malcolm Macdonald, president of the Jamaican federation, was stopped mid-way through attacking the suitability of personnel tasked with the endurance clean-up.
Lord Stevens warned he had successfully brought previous libel cases and would not tolerate slurs on his independence.
“None of us can be complacent about the crisis around endurance,” he said. “I reserve the right to go anywhere at any time to ensure the rules are being monitored and enforced.”
Haya excused herself from the discussions, stating that it was inappropriate for her to be in the room when issues of governance relating to the presidency were being debated.