I don’t share my compatriots’ obsession with soccer, but have been wedded all day to the BBC’s 24-hour news channel to follow the gripping developments in the FBI arrests of FIFA officials, dragged from their beds in a luxury Zurich hotel at dawn on charges of corruption.
The US attorney general gave a press conference in New York and explained why decent folk won’t tolerate FIFA’s criminal tendencies any more.
Is it too much to hope we are on the cusp of a new global movement to throw the book at all the talentless suits whose involvement in sports is purely self-serving or nefarious? If so, credit to the FEI for taking tough action against the bad apples in equestrianism before being publicly shamed into doing something by a much higher authority – or worse still, having matters taken out of its hands, as is now happening to FIFA.
Or at least I think so: it’s kinda interesting that the head of the UAE national Olympic committee visited FEI headquarters Lausanne yesterday, the same day as UAE equestrian representatives met the FEI to discuss the long road back from their suspension over the endurance crisis. The UAE Olympic body will be supporting a new committee set up to “strengthen” UAE endurance.
Maybe the IOC has given relevant stakeholders a quiet nudge, but there is no doubt the FEI swiftly developed unexpected steeliness upon the departure of Princess Haya (whose brother, Prince Ali, oddly enough, is the sole candidate taking on Sepp Blatter in the FIFA presidential election on Friday, should it still go ahead, of course).
Take for instance, the wording of the FEI press release outlining the discussions at yesterday’s (May 26th) meeting. It’s clear the FEI is offering the UAE no cosy solution. We may never be told the details, but I would be surprised if the UAE doesn’t have to demonstrate respect for horse welfare and FEI rules at its national rides before they can claim to have got the picture. Unless the UAE can schedule some night rides in the next few weeks, which is hardly ideal, there will be no chance to experiment with the horses-come-first mindset until daytime temperatures drop in the Fall.
In reality, they will surely need the summer months to explain the culture change to many hundreds of competitors. Some might use their down-time to good practical effect by taking some riding lessons, if this picture (above) of a back-to-front Pelham, spotted in the UAE this spring, season is indicative of horsemastership in these parts.
It has also emerged that the UAE withdrew its appeal against the suspension on May 10th, though this was not announced immediately because of Tribunal procedure. Yesterday’s meeting was enabled only by that withdrawal.
It’s a shame the UAE federation couldn’t themselves have concluded the day they were suspended (March 12th) that appealing was a Seriously Bad Idea. This would have avoided the rest of the world concluding they bore no contrition, never mind having their specious legal arguments laughed out of court at the interim hearing.
Goodness knows who suggested they appeal, though Sheikh Mohammed, who would have been consulted, certainly has a history of employing people that give him bad advice. Interesting too, that the folk representing the UAE at this first important step in its rehabilitation didn’t include Saeed Al Tayer or Mohammed Essa, the double-act usually called in by the Maktoums to fix their mishaps.
My instinct is that this new attitude of conciliation is driven more by Sheikh Mansour, ruler of Abu Dhabi, rather than his opposite number down the freeway in Dubai.
The FEI Tribunal is a good source of entertainment at the moment. I also enjoyed its decision notice dismissing the separate appeal of prominent endurance vet and judge Hallvard Sommerseth.
A Norwegian ex-pat, Dr Sommerseth has lived in the UAE for eons, falls under the UAE for administrative purposes, and invariably is the UAE delegate at FEI assemblies and forums. (It is also a matter of public record that Dr S is, ahem, listed as “officiating” at 11 of the “phantom” endurance rides currently under investigation).
He argued he was losing income through being unable officiate and run courses overseas (though I would be surprised if he’d receive many invitations, in the circumstances), wanted to be restored to the national federation of Norway, and claimed he had been transferred to the UAE for administrative purposes against his will.
However, it turns out the Norwegians don’t want him back. The Tribunal also concluded that “given that one of the reasons behind the FEI Bureau’s decision to suspend the UAE NF was serious concerns regarding horse welfare, it would be inappropriate to allow a person who held the position of Head of Veterinary Department of the UAE NF to officiate at international events during the period.”
I discussed here how normally right-minded people lose all sense of judgement when they work in UAE endurance. I would imagine Dr Sommerseth now wishes he’d run the pros and cons past colleagues who haven’t moved over to the dark side before denting his own reputation with this hasty act of vanity.
Meanwhile, for those following the Pakistani trainer faked-permit fiasco, Mr Mehmood has now written to the Pakistan federation. In correspondence I have seen, he freely admits his permit was forged and asks the federation to issue him with a real one! A medal for “front,” if nothing else…