Five members of the board of directors for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, scheduled to be held in Bromont, Quebec, have resigned. Those resigning include CEO Luc Fournier, chairman of the board François Duffar, Julie Payette, René Perreault and Linda Heathcott.
A press release issued April 29 by the COJEM, the organizing committee for the WEG states:
“Faced with a number of issues since the beginning of their respective mandates, the two leaders came to the conclusion that, without major changes and the reiteration of their strong support from all partners and stakeholders, they will not be able to deliver and to stage the Games as planned in two years,” the released stated. “They therefore resigned from their positions, both for professional reasons and in the hope of delivering a necessary wake up call.
“The resignation of the board’s chairman is effective immediately; as for the CEO’s it will become effective in three months time,” it continued.
Rosaire Houde has been named the interim CEO. Houde is a former board member of Equine Canada and previously served as president of the Federation Equestre de Quebec. The board will have a meeting on Tuesday, May 2, to discuss new leadership and restructuring.
In an interview with La Voix de L’Est, a regional newspaper, Fournier said he came to the realization that the organizing committee would not be able to produce a quality games, and it would require someone better equipped than him to make it work.
Fournier previously produced events such as the 1997 Quebec Winter Games, the Quebec Winter Carnival (1997-2002), the Major International Events Network (2002-2010), the Canadian Festivals Coalition (2006-2010) and the Sherbrooke Canada Games (2010-2013).
At the Equestrian Canada convention in Montreal last weekend, Fournier stated that without financial support from the federal government, the committee was unable to secure major sponsors. Only Longines, the luxury Swiss watch company who often sponsors equestrian events, has made a substantial contribution.
The COJEM asked Ottawa to provide $8.75 million. Typically, Fournier noted, events have a financial backer in case of shortfall, unlike the COJEM.
“This does not come as a surprise as I was in Canada recently together with the FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus and, in addition to other obligations, met with the Bromont Organizing Committee and Equine Canada specifically to address the outstanding issues and delays, which mainly centered around planning and finance,” said FEI President Ingmar de Vos. “We need to get a full picture of the situation and look at how we can work together with Equine Canada and the remaining members of the Board to deliver the Games. We are confident that we will find a good solution, but we need to look at all options.
“The FEI remains fully committed to the concept of the World Equestrian Games and believes that this way of organizing World Championships across all our disciplines is absolutely right for our sport,” he continued. “The World Equestrian Games are enthusiastically embraced by a large majority of our community and there is already strong interest in the bidding process for the 2022 Games. We are confident that solutions will be found, but in the interests of our whole community, we have the responsibility to ask the right questions and protect the future of our flagship events.”
Fournier is the second person to resign from the CEO position. He took over the position in September of last year after Paul Côté, who chaired the Bromont Bid Committee and served as CEO once the Fédération Equestre Internationale approved the bid, resigned in August.
The WEG in Bromont would only be the second one held outside of Europe, following the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky.