Olympics-Coates confident Equestrian Australia can clean up act before Tokyo

SYDNEY, June 17 (Reuters) - Senior Olympics official John Coates is confident Australia will be able to send an equestrian team to next year’s Tokyo Games despite the sport’s governing body going into voluntary administration after having its funding cut off.

Equestrian Australia’s membership of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) was effectively suspended when it appointed voluntary administrators earlier this month, a few days after it was informed it would receive no further government funding.

Sport Australia, which has funded the sport to the tune of A$13 million ($8.93 million) over the last four years, said EA’s governance structure had “proven itself manifestly unfit for purpose” and needed an overhaul.

Coates said EA would have to apply for readmission to the AOC after meeting a list of criteria but thought that the 13 months before the delayed Tokyo Olympics open would be more than enough time to reform the organisation.

“As for the AOC’s selection of an equestrian team for Tokyo, the postponement of the Games gives EA plenty of time to get its house in order,” he said via e-mail.

Sport Australia have taken over direct control of the equestrian high performance programme but Coates said EA must be “managing the sport on a ‘whole of sport’ basis” to be considered for readmission to the AOC.

Coates has been at loggerheads with Sport Australia chairman John Wylie for several years and he also fired a warning shot across his adversary’s bows regarding the overhaul of EA’s leadership.

“The AOC has made it clear that this should be by way of elections free from outside influence, including that of Sport Australia, pursuant to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism,” he added.

Australia has won six golds and 12 medals in total in equestrian events at the Summer Olympics, most recently a bronze in team eventing at the Rio Games. ($1 = 1.4558 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)