Now based in the United States, near New York, Rodrigo Pessoa was happy to return to major European competitions such as Dinard, where he gave us his feelings on the situation of high-level equestrian sport and its governance.
We are in Dinard, as part of a Rolex competition. At the same time, there is the CSIO5* in Hickstead, with the Longines Nations Cup. Doesn’t it become complicated to find your way hierarchically in the middle of all these great competitions?
I believe that the two major partners, Rolex and Longines, are important for equestrian sports. Me, I’m a « Rolex man », so everything Rolex does for our sport, I think it’s good. But, for ten years, Longines has also contributed a lot. It’s more endowments that bring the sport to life, so that’s positive. What is unfortunate, in my opinion, is the conflict of interest between Longines and the International Equestrian Federation. I think that the FEI is tripping itself up a bit by overprotecting Longines – not to the detriment of Rolex which, to my knowledge, is very satisfied with its events because the brand has very good competitions -, but to the detriment of the sport. By defending Longines, because it is its sponsor, the FEI has caused the World Cup to lose enormous momentum. And the Nations Cup circuit is sinking into misery because the most beautiful stages now belong to Rolex: La Baule, Calgary, Aix-la-Chapelle, Rome… These superb competitions no longer count in the classification of the Super League and in the qualification for the final in Barcelona, because they are under the colors of Rolex. There are no more prestige contests left in league 1 because of this fight. You cannot have a sponsor, Longines, involved in sport when it is also the title sponsor of the FEI… The absence of conflict of interest is the number one rule of business and sport! When you see the list of starters for the World Cup final, that’s not what it used to be. In the United States, there is not a great selection of competitions at the end of the year, so on the East Coast World Cup competitions, the best Americans and resident foreigners are there, but on the West Coast, there is nobody ! The circuit has lost its aura. The FEI, as stewards of the sport, needs to do a better job.
The rest of this interview can be found in issue 430 of L’Eperon Hebdo (published on August 11, 2022), available on our online store.
Interview by Jocelyne Alligier