The Global Champions League is the weirdest, coolest, cleverest thing that has happened to equestrian sports since some guy in Italy invented the forward seat. I’m not even kidding. It has the high class atmosphere of the old national shows in Madison Square Garden, the potential for crazed team hooliganism of European soccer leagues, and the look of a legitimate mainstream sport. Here’s a few of the reasons we’re saying yes to the GCL.
1. NO MORE STOCK TIES. This may be terribly hipster millenial of me, but I just hate stock ties and wool coats. I feel like I have a hard time explaining how thrilling, athletic, and competitive my sport is to non-horse people when you can do it in a top hat or cravat. The GCL does away with the traditional look and puts their riders in team uniform polos, and they’re so rad. They look like real athletes now! Janne Frederike Mayer and Ben Maher Team Shanghai Swans. PC: Stefano Grasso/GCL
2. It’s a Team Sport. On the GCL, riders are put into teams at the beginning of the season, and they collect points as the season goes along, and they cheer for each other’s rounds. Like other professional mainstream sports, these teams go beyond nationalities, and instead pair random folks together from all over the world to cheer for each other, and it makes the viewing incredible fun, because you get to watch riders cheer FOR each other from the Kiss and Cry platform. It humanizes everyone in a thrilling way.
GCL of Shanghai 2016 – Cascais Charms. PC: Stefano Grasso/GCL
4. Each Team Gets Home Field Advantage. Each team represents one stop on the season tour, so each team has a chance to be “the home team.” (for example, the Antwerp Diamonds were the home team the week that the tour was in Belgium). This is absolutely genius on the part of League developer Jan Tops, because it invites people who have never watched or attended the sport to suddenly feel like they have someone to cheer for. They’re invested in a completely different and more meaningful way, and the result will be thousands of new fans all over the world, including places like Shanghai and Doha.
5. The FEI HATES the GCL. And that’s kind of hilarious. The GCL and the FEI have been embroiled in back and forth lawsuit for months because the FEI refuses to sanction and approve the event. The reasons for this are convoluted and boring, but in short, the FEI is fuming that the event isn’t in their immediate control. If you’ve even been annoyed with the FEI’s bizarre rulings about passports, name changes, or fundamentally messing with people’s sports, then watching them squirm about the popularity of the GCL is an absolute treat.
6. You can Livestream Every Single Event for Free. Live Streaming has fundamentally revolutionized fandom for all the equestrian sports, and the GCL has worked hard to take advantage of that. You can get the schedule and watch live on GCL TV every weekend there’s a tournament.
7. The GCL is PACKED with superstars of the Sport. The Miami Glory consists of Kent Farrington, Scott Brash, and Georgina Bloomberg. That’s just ONE TEAM. Valkenswaard United? Oh you know, just John Whitaker and Bertram Allen. Or maybe Rodrigo Pessoa and Lauren Hough of the Vienna Eagles are more your speed. I just literally can’t even.
PC: Stefano Grasso/GCL
8. The Format is Really Easy to Follow: 2 rounds. 1st Round – go clean and you proceed to 2nd round. 2nd Round – fastest and cleanest combined scores of the team wins. The second round is ridden in reverse order, so it builds up to a huge, thrilling finale!
9. The Prize Money is Like Whoa. 1st place €60.000, 2nd place €40.000, 3rd place €26.000, and money is distributed down to 15th place. They give away a total of 200,000 Euros at every tour stop, and by the time you add up all the tour stops and season ranking winnings, the league gives away 4.5 million euros. I know. I KNOW.
10. The GCL Could be the Future of Show Jumping. I’m predicting right now that the GCL could usher in a whole new era in our sport. It’s a format that could trickle down to the local and rated shows, could be applied to a show series, and could make new fans and new participants. If you’re watching, you just might be watching a piece of show jumping history.
You can check out all the teams, the rules, and the current rankings on the Global Champions League Website, and of course we’ll be covering the GCL here on Jumper Nation. The next tour stop is in Monaco starting June 24th, so be sure to tune in!