On March 30, Fédération Equestre Internationale Vice Presidents John McEwen and Pablo Mayorga and FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos met with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss implementing the Endurance Strategic Planning Group recommendations to create a more equitable field of play and enhance the integrity of the endurance discipline.
Sheikh Mohammed pointed out that the Meydan Group, a collective that he started which includes the the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai and a variety of hotels and other sporting facilities, is the regulator in Dubai for various equine-related matters and that so long as it remains a regulator, it would be prudent for it to withdraw its sponsorship of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Consequently Meydan will withdraw its sponsorship from the Games.
In order not to disadvantage the organizing committee of the Games and ensure all financial obligations are met, the FEI Commercial Department has worked with the office of Sheikh Mohammed to secure a new sponsor. SOBHA Group, a multinational, multiproduct group headquartered in Bangalore, India, with significant developments and investments in India, UAE, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Brunei and Tanzania has offered to take over the sponsorship, which matches its global marketing objectives. The SOBHA Group has partnered with Meydan to create District One, a luxury villa development in Dubai.
The acceptance of SOBHA as a replacement for Meydan will be considered for formal approval by the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Board on April 17.
Meydan will however sponsor the work of the FEI Endurance Task Force to enable it to create and implement the technical solutions necessary to ensure fairness on the field of play at the 2014 Games and beyond. This sponsorship complements its current role as an equine regulator. Sheikh Mohammed has also confirmed that he’ll facilitate, through the FEI Commercial Department, the provision of onsite hospitality facilities during the endurance competition day in Normandy so that all athletes can benefit from equal facilities.
On a related matter, during the Endurance Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, in February, participants discussed that commercial activities and sport need to be clearly and formally separated. For this reason, the Technical Committee and the Endurance Sports Department cannot be involved in any commercial activities and transactions. This will now be the sole responsibility of the FEI Commercial Department led by Lisa Lazarus.
With regard to the officials, the FEI Secretary General has already made it clear to the organizers of endurance events that the officials need to be informed about the conditions such as accommodation, transport, per diems and reimbursement of costs prior to the competition, and that payments can only be made by the organizing committee. Additionally, the FEI will look at the possibility of centralizing these payments made by the organizing committee of reimbursement of expenses and per diems in order to guarantee equal treatment of officials and to preserve their integrity.