Horse Sport has confirmed that five members of the board of the 2018 Bromont WEG (COJEM) have resigned en-masse including: Luc Fournier, CEO; François Duffar, chair of the board, Julie Payette, Rene Perreault, and Linda Heathcott.
A press release issued by COJEM stated:
“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. 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. The organization also accepted the resignation of two other Board members, Ms Julie Payette and Mr. René Perreault.”
In a frank interview with the regional newspaper La Voix de L’Est, Fournier was quoted as saying that he realized this week that the organizing committee would not be able to deliver a quality product and that it would take somebody better equipped than him to make it work. Fournier, however, is no stranger to major events, having spearheaded the Sherbrooke Canada Games from 2010 to 2013, the 1997 Quebec Winter Games, the Quebec Winter Carnival from 1997 to 2002, the Major International Events Network (MIEN) from 2002 to 2010, and the Canadian Festivals Coalition from 2006 to 2010.
At the Equestrian Canada convention in Montreal last weekend, Fournier noted that the lack of financial support from the Federal Government has made securing major sponsors almost impossible. The lack of commitment from the host country’s government makes potential sponsors too nervous to commit millions of dollars. COJEM had asked Ottawa to provide a minimum of $8.75 million dollars. In the same interview, Fournier also noted that traditionally such events have a financial backer in case of financial shortfall, which is not the case for COJEM.
Despite these enormous difficulties, the remaining board members of COJEM are continuing on. Rosaire Houde has been named the interim-CEO and is “optimistic about the future”.
“Although we have heard nothing official from Ottawa, we have been told that the file is progressing well,” he commented about the likelihood of receiving Federal funding.
Houde is a former board member of Equine Canada as well former president of the Federation Equestre de Quebec. “(COJEM) will have a board meeting on Tuesday and will be bringing in new leadership and restructuring the board.”
Fournier, who has only been on the job since September 2015, is the second CEO to resign the CEO’s position. Paul Côté had been chair of the Bromont Bid Committee and was named once the FEI approved the bid but resigned last August.
It is the first time in the history of the World Equestrian games that this prestigious event will be held in Canada, and the second time outside the European continent.