A controversial endurance organiser accused of interfering with the decisions of judges and vets is being allowed to keep the 2020 world championship ride – but he must stand aside and allow the FEI to appoint all officials.

The conduct of Gianluca Laliscia ‒ proprietor of San Rossore in Pisa, Italy ‒ has been the subject of much speculation following incidents last fall, and the FEI notified him about possible disciplinary action.

But while reallocation of the 2020 worlds to another venue was clearly an option, the FEI is “mindful that the disciplinary proceedings against Mr Laliscia (including any appeal) might not be resolved until after the 2020 Championship,” and that the endurance community ‒ whose 2018 championship at Tryon was cancelled when leaders had medals within their grasp ‒ needs certainty.

San Rossore has strong ties to Dubai, with Meydan as title sponsor, and has been the subject of previous controversy.

After Lalisca’s September 2019 event, images appeared on social media showing him entering the vet gate area and talking to vets and officials. In one alleged incident, four unidentified men harassed a line vet who had disqualified a VIP competitor. The vet set off for home immediately. At the time the FEI told Horsesport.com it was investigating an “incident.” Minutes of the European Equestrian Federation board meetings also refer to developments in the “Pisa case.”

Details of the allegations have not been disclosed by the FEI. But in a statement this week the FEI said: “Given the allegations against Mr Laliscia, which he denies, the FEI had concerns about his role with the organising committee of the FEI World Endurance Championships 2020 to be held in Pisa on 3-6 September 2020.

“To ensure that there will not be any (direct or indirect) interference with the decisions of officials ….Mr Laliscia and the involved stakeholders held constructive discussions, following which the FEI has agreed to accept detailed undertakings from Mr Laliscia and the organising committee (set out below), which are backed by serious sanctions for any breach.”

A summary of the agreement can be read here. Key points include:

  • The organisers and Italian Equestrian Federation will propose a new event director for the 2020 championship to replace Laliscia, subject to FEI approval;
  • As CEO and chairman of sistemaeventi.it, Laliscia will fulfil his commercial and other responsibilities but not be involved in the sporting or technical aspects of the event;
  • The FEI will select and appoint, in its absolute discretion, ALL officials including (without limitation) the technical delegate, the course designer, the ground jury, the veterinary commission, and the stewards;
  • No secondary competitions will be held during the championship week.

The disciplinary action against Laliscia has thereby been resolved and the FEI Board is “satisfied that there is a sound basis for the successful staging of the 2020 Championship.”

Meanwhile, the FEI has still to decide on a venue for the 2022 endurance world championship. The only contenders are Rome/Verona and Saudi Arabia, which have already failed to win hosting rights as part of an overall World Equestrian Games bid; Dubai, the emirate at the centre of the sport’s welfare, doping and cheating scandals; and Padise in Estonia, which venue also has ties with Dubai.