World body issues statement following Cian O’Connor incident at Euro Championships

  • 22 August 2015, 11:14

THE Swiss-based world governing body for equestrian sport, the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale), late last night (Friday) issued a statement regarding the incident at yesterday’s European Championships at Aachen where a member of the ground staff ran in front of Irish combination Cian O’Connor and Good Luck during their final round. The Irish rider unexpectedly had the next fence down. Irish team officials lodged an appeal with the Aachen ground jury over the incident, and then with the Appeals Committee at Aachen, but without success.

The extra team penalties incurred through O’Connor clipping the pole in this instance placed Ireland marginally outside the Olympic-qualifying spot it had hoped to gain at the German event.

The FEI statement reads:

“Following an on-course incident in which a member of the arena fence crew ran across the track as Irish rider Cian O’Connor was turning towards the 11th fence during the team Final at the FEI European Jumping Championships 2015 in Aachen (GER), the Irish chef d’equipe Robert Splaine and athlete Cian O’Connor lodged a protest. The horse Good Luck hit the fence to complete the course on four faults.

“The protest was heard by the Ground Jury, who ruled that as the athlete had continued his round, they saw no reason to stop him by ringing the bell. Under Article 233.3 of the FEI Jumping Rules, the athlete had the opportunity to stop voluntarily due to unforeseen circumstances beyond his control, however he did not do so.

“The Ground Jury heard explanations from Robert Splaine and Cian O’Connor, reviewed video footage of the incident, and ruled that the result would stand.

“Having been notified of the Ground Jury’s decision, the Irish chef d’equipe and the athlete promptly appealed the decision to the Appeal Committee. However, after a further full review of the incident, including hearing statements from all parties, the Appeal Committee ruled that the athlete had been given a full and complete right to be heard and stated that it would not overrule the Ground Jury on a field of play decision. As a result, the Appeal Committee rejected the appeal and upheld the Ground Jury decision.

“The decision means that the Irish team score of 25.960 penalties remains unchanged, leaving the Irish in seventh overall, with the qualifying slots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games going to Switzerland (3rd), Great Britain (4th) and Spain (6th).”

Horse Sport Ireland’s position on the incident remains unchanged despite this statement.

Damian McDonald, Horse Sport Ireland CEO said: “We are very proud of the Irish team’s performance at the European Championships in Aachen. As regards the incident where an arena official crossed Cian O’Connor and his horse Good Luck’s tracks causing interference, we will be examining all of our options provided for within the rules of the International Governing Body the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) including a potential appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)”