Thursday 29 September 2016

Elite riders to contest Champions Tour Final

Published 11/11/2015 | 02:30

Bertram Allen jumps into action at the Global Champions Tour
Bertram Allen jumps into action at the Global Champions Tour

Irish riders Cian O'Connor, Denis Lynch and Bertram Allen are among an elite line-up who will contest the Global Champions Tour Individual Show Jumping Final in Doha, Qatar this coming weekend.

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However, it is possibly the last time the lucrative competition will be held in its current format as an all-new Global Champions League team event is set to launch in 2016.

This comes despite a recent challenge from the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) who attempted to thwart the plans by imposing a so-called "exclusivity clause" on a rule that prevented riders, horses and show officials from participating in non-FEI events six months prior to participating in an FEI event.

Following an appeal by the GCT organisers, the Court of Appeal in Brussels upheld an earlier decision of the Belgian Competition Authority enabling the new Global Champions League to launch in 2016.

They maintained that the FEI had failed to demonstrate the injunction inflicted serious and irreparable harm on the federation. However, the FEI is set to challenge that decision once again in the coming weeks.

This is primarily in a bid to protect the successful Nations' Cup team competition run by the FEI and in turn prevent any future clashes with the series which is run across six regions throughout the spring and summer. This includes Europe, in which Ireland has competed with much success this year and won the final leg on home ground at the RDS in August.

If allowed to go ahead, the new league format will see Olympic and World Champions in action as part of teams at 15 destinations worldwide next year.

However, the new format will likely see riders again torn between the GCT and the Nations' Cup team competition which, in recent years, have clashed on more than one occasion, leading to rifts amongst owners, riders and team managers.

While a number of riders feel obliged to compete in the more lucrative GCT, others feel loyal to their country by wearing the Irish green jacket. in a Nations' Cup. "Yes we've had clashes before and some have opted to compete in the GCT but luckily I've had enough riders to field a team every time.

"I would hope there's enough room for both competitions next year," commented Irish team manager Robert Splaine.

While the Corkman is supportive of the GCT and its concept, he believes the Nations' Cup series is crucial for developing young riders. "Look at Greg Broderick as an example. Last year he competed in his first ever Nations' Cup in Arezzo and this year he was a member of the winning team at the RDS."

For the past nine years in its current guise the GCT has revolutionised individual show jumping at the highest level, with some €9m on offer at each of the legs throughout the year and €1.7m of that for the final alone each November. Aside from the final Grand Prix which offers €450,000, riders compete for a pool of €300,000 at each of the other venues, with €100,000 up for grabs to the winning rider.

In comparison the Nations' Cup carries a prize-fund of €200,000 at each leg and that is divided out amongst the winning team and runners-up.

Developed in 2006 by former Olympic team rider Jan Tops, the GCT now runs across four continents in 14 countries. Last year Irish-American Frank McCourt acquired a 50pc stake and within months expanded it to the USA for the first time. His long-term plan is to include Ireland as a host nation.

History was made in April as the Tour launched at Miami Beach, where 2014 winner Scott Brash opened his campaign with a win on board Hello Sanctos. Since then the British rider has continued his domination with a host of placings and further wins at Monaco and Estoril, Portugal pushing him up the leaderboard ahead of the Doha showdown where he will be hoping to repeat his victory of 12 months ago.

However, little separates him from second-placed Luciana Diniz of Portugal who lies just two points adrift, with Rolf-Goran Bengtsson currently in third position.

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