The 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Bromont (Quebec), an event that has been marred by controversy almost since its inception, suffered another setback when Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough, the Canadian cabinet minister in charge of Sport Canada, declined to put forth funding to support the show, putting its status in jeopardy.
“Obviously it is disappointing that the Canadian Federal Government has made the decision not to fund the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Bromont,” Fédération Equestre Internationale officials said in a statement. “As the international governing body, the FEI has a responsibility to ask the right questions and protect the future of our flagship events so, as a matter of priority, we will be meeting with the COJEM Board and Equestrian Canada to get a full picture of the situation and to look at next steps.”
The decision came just two months after five members of the WEG’s board of directors, including CEO Luc Fournier and chairman of the board Francois Duffar, resigned from their positions over concern at the government’s lack of financial contributions. Rosaire Houde took over as interim chief executive officer in May; he is the third to lead the committee since Paul Cote resigned from his position as CEO last August.
“After the [resignations] at the end of April, the remaining members have tried to see what was missing and what we should get to organize the Games,” Houde said. “That’s what we’ve done. The goals were quite high, but we worked on it, and we tried to get the federal government on board, but early this week we were advised that the federal government would not support the WEG. Since then, we sent notice to the FEI that we would like to meet with them to see what could be the next steps.
“It’s clear that the 2018 WEG is in jeopardy,” he continued. “The chances that there will be a WEG in Bromont in 2018 are quite tiny. But we’re still discussing it with the FEI, and we hope for the best.”
Without the government’s funding, the committee has struggled to secure major sponsorships. The event is estimated to cost $100 million; $20 million of that is the responsibility of the land owner and the city of Bromont for infrastructure, and another $20 million was set to be earned during the event through ticketing and concessions. Of the remaining $60 million, only $10 million has been raised.
Bromont won its bid as the 2018 host in June of 2014, receiving unanimous approval from the FEI. The city was originally expected to win its bid nearly a year prior, but the bidding process was reopened, also due to concerns over funding.
“At the end of the day, the board of directors is responsible for what is taking place now,” Houde said. “It’s not because of the federal government or anybody else. It’s not because of the sponsors. It’s not because of the FEI. It’s because, somewhere, we should have made a decision, or maybe we should not have made a decision. At the end of the day, we were our own masters. I don’t want to throw any of the responsibility to any other party.”
The deadline to secure ample funding is July 15. The FEI has not formally agreed to extend that deadline, but they have agreed to meet with the board of directors and Equine Canada to discuss the issue.
“We’re trying to have that meeting as soon as possible,” Houde said. “As we speak, they are trying to determine a site for the meeting. Obviously, [the meeting] will be held after the 15th, but we are not talking about an extension of the deadline; we are just talking about a discussion.”
Should the WEG go on as scheduled, Bromont, which hosted the equestrian events at the 1976 Olympic Games (Montreal), would become the first Canadian city and just the second city outside of Europe to put on a WEG, following the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington (Ky.).