Horse Sport Ireland has not ruled out taking the case involving Cian O’Connor to the Swiss federal courts.
On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against HSI and O’Connor in their appeal against the Federation Equestre Internationale following the debacle at the European Championships last August, when a member of the arena party ran in front of O’Connor and Good Luck, who then knocked a fence.
However, CAS only issued its judgment and did not give the grounds for its decision, saying this would “follow in the coming weeks”.
As such, HSI will wait until then before making any decision on an appeal, said HSI chief executive Damian McDonald.
advertisement“Other legal options may be open to us, including a challenge in the Swiss Courts.
“However, it is very unlikely we would go down that road. The international governing body, the FEI, provide for CAS as their ultimate arbiter for disputes in their general regulations and we would be reluctant to go beyond the FEI rules.
‘However, the Horse Sport Ireland board of directors set up a legal sub-group to advise on the case, which includes senior counsel Martin Heydan, Joe Fitzpatrick from Smithwick Solicitors in Kilkenny, and Phillip O’Connor. When the full CAS judgment is published, that group will review the reasons CAS provided for their decision and will then give their guidance to the board.”
On whether cost would be a determinant in its decision-making, McDonald said: “The potential cost of any further action would be something that the board of Horse Sport Ireland would take into account when making a decision about any matter, but this is unlikely to arise.”
In the vast majority of cases, appeals to the Swiss courts are only successful if procedural requirements have not been met in the case. However, a CAS decision was over-ruled on the merits of the case involving Brazilian footballer Matuzalém Francelino da Silva, who had been banned by Fifa.
Nevertheless, O’Connor told the Irish Examiner that he intended to plan for a year that could yet see Ireland field a team at Rio de Janeiro, though he admitted it was a long shot that would see Ireland as first reserve taking the place of a country that had withdrawn. There is precedence, as, in an ironic twist, Ireland opted not to send a show jumping team to the Sydney Olympics.
As it stands, if the qualified nations from the World Equestrian Games — the Netherlands, France, USA, Germany, or Sweden — do not take up their team slot, Ireland is next in line. Similarly with those that qualified at the European Championships: Switzerland, Britain and Spain. In addition, if Canada and Argentina, who qualified at the Pan Am Games do not take up their slots, and reserves Colombia and Chile then do not, Ireland will have the option.
In terms of individual places, it is almost certain that Bertram Allen will win a spot for Ireland with either Romanov or Molly Malone. He has a big lead in the Olympic rankings with both horses, ahead of a string of Irish riders and there is the prospect of a second place being available to Ireland.
However, it must be remembered that it is the Irish manager, Robert Splaine, who decides who goes to the Games, not the rider who has won the place. Denis Lynch was initially Ireland’s representative at the London Olympics, only to be replaced by O’Connor, who went on to win a bronze medal.