Fei’s first candidate

 

Defender of

 

the sport

 

Is straightforwardness and neutrality a no go in the equestrian world?  Hopefully not to Switzerland’s eager candidate to the top job in FEI.

 

By Camilla Alfthan

 

Pierre Genecand has three golden rules that he always tries to apply in life.

“You must always be first – you’re off and ahead of the rest. You must be unique – which means that you have particular ideas about what you want to do. And then you must be different from the others – you must have that thing that makes you stand out from the rest,” tells the 64-year old Swiss insurance broker.

 

If anything, Genecand is all of the above when it comes to running for the job as the next president of the FEI. He already announced his candidacy in October 2013 when there was a little over a year until the end of the current president’s second term.
He created a website to become known outside the small, equestrian world – an advice given to him by the managers of the PGA golf tour to help communicate about his ideas that are the sum of an entire life spent in and around the equestrian circuits.
For several decades Genecand has followed and organized equestrian shows presiding over the CHI Geneva which show jumpers have dubbed the best indoor show of the calendar.

 

Apart from English, he speaks Italian, French, German and Spanish practicing the latter as the owner of an estancia in Argentina where he plays polo and breeds ponies. He used to show jump but after thirty years on the circuit of amateurs he switched to polo where he enjoys the teamwork and the fun of being the patron.

 

“I’m very straightforward. I know my path and then I’m off.”

 

Above all, Genecand is a business man from the world of finance who has a strong passion for all equestrian sports. He used to go to the office on his scooter to arrive at the same time, or even before, the concierge or the receptionist.

“I’m very straightforward. I know my path and then I’m off,” says Genecand who has accumulated a waiting list of sponsors from the luxury world as the president of Hublot Polo Gold Cup Gstaad, Switzerland’s most important polo tournament.
That the campaigning for the post will be heated is beyond any shadow of doubt.

Less than a month before the final deadline to apply for the candidacy five other players have entered the ring including the French Olympian, Pierre Durand, the first vice president of the FEI, veterinarian John McEwen, the Danish vice president of the European Equestrian Federation, Ulf Helgstrand and Belgian FEI secretary general, Ingmar De Vos.

 

While there are many different agendas, it is the sport – and the approachment of all the different disciplines – that are at Genecand’s centre of attention.
“Shows have grown too fast and in too many different directions. With the Global Champions Tour, Jan Tops has succeded in creating his own Formula One of show jumping.

 

However, everyone is doing their own thing and the audience is confused.

 

That is why there’s a need to better structure the sport – to put all in order – and study how others approach professional sports whether it is in tennis or golf. Look at the the PGA golf tour – they have bought dates. You know that on a certain weekend it’s the Open in Augusta. We are far from that. Right now, there’s too much going on,“ he says, insisting that he’s not the type who breaks down everything in order to make a new structure but rather to improve and strengthen the existing.
“I’m Swiss – I’m neutral – and I’m very close to all the disciplines,” says Genecand whose agenda is bursting with engagements around the world.
“I’m also very pragmatic,” he continues. “Things must be very clear and you need rules that people must follow. Those who break them are sanctioned.”
Basically, he wishes for a better communication between the Governing Body of the sport and the various stakeholders of the eight official disciplines.
On his Facebook page he has asked people from all over the world to send in suggestions to how to improve the sport.
“The response has been formidable – people have sent in all sorts of ideas of how they see the sport in the future,” he says.

 

“Sponsors are looking for a niche and a dream that people can aspire to. Equestrian sports are just that.”

 

As an insurance broker and a succesful business man Genecand is used to the way the financial world operates.

“Before you enter a company you always study it to know what lies ahead. You look at the track record and the accounts and the employes. Here, I have minimal information on what goes on internally. So it will probably take some time to figure it out before I can make some changes, “ he tells.
Most importantly, the FEI must defend the sport as rumours indicate that equestrian disciplines – which are most likely to be dressage and three-day eventing – could be suppressed in the Olympic Games. Rumours that led to the creation of the World Equestrian Games in 1990 – an event that Genecand attended (and even worked for in 1998)and which has since grown tremendously.
“FEI must stand up and inform about the impressive numbers of spectators and the popularity of the sport. They must push the sport forward before it is too late. The Olympics are a formidable showcase that we must not lose!” he says adding that the overall future looks bright.
“Sponsors are coming towards the equestrian sports as they’re leaving scandal ridden sports like cycling. They’re looking for a niche and a dream that people can aspire to. Equestrian sports are just that. That is why we should try and accomodate them all. We have eight disciplines to support, not only the three Olympic ones.

Personally, I like to create dreams for people – I want to go to work every day and enjoy what I’m doing,” says Genecand who is only short of one thing compared to previous presidents of the FEI : A royal title.

 

“But I’ll buy one if I have to,” he smiles.

 

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