Allow me to explain…
I know that I hammer on a lot about this subject and I was once accused of writing a piece which was a ‘thinly disguised’ (or some such phrase) promotion of the Angling Trust. All I can say is that I must have been having an off-day when I wrote that particular one: because usually I try to make my drum-banging in favour of the Trust as clear and as obvious as possible. I definitely do not do thinly disguised!
This piece was inspired by my happening to come across a short article in the ‘Times’ recently about the famous yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s comments on the BBC coverage of sport. It was, he said, ‘obsessed with football and cricket’, and promoted ‘elitist’ views of yachting. Well now, does that remind you of anything in connection with our own particular great sport? Sound familiar, by any chance!? A claim which many adherents of sports make –and it is obviously true – is that their chosen pastime is ‘a great leveller’. Well, there is no doubt that fishing is that alright! And a thing which I personally often delight in pointing out to followers of conventional sports and games is that anglers’ performances often improve with advancing age. You certainly can’t say that about professional footballers!
The comments appeared even more relevant when I read that Sir Robin had described yachting as ‘one of the largest and most successful sports in the country…open to all, whether a bricklayer or a duke’, of which the BBC ‘consistently refuse(s) to provide coverage’. Again, does this sound familiar at all?
I have never felt myself to be in any way shape or form an ally of yachtsmen, but after I had read this, I was beginning to see that they have a lot in common with us. It may be that some of you reading this are also yachtsmen. Without a doubt very, very many of you will be football fans and followers of cricket. And it is even more certain that many of you will never have thought particularly that angling is worthy of at least some TV coverage. Well, if that is the case, my advice is to give the question some real thought: angling is without a doubt also ‘one of the largest and most successful sports in the country’, to use Sir Robin’s words with reference to yachting. So perhaps angling deserves at least a modest amount of coverage. Especially as (and I think this is beyond doubt) that yachting (in the shape of solo round-the-world endurance feats and competitive events) does in fact receive some coverage – much more than angling does in fact, an activity in which many more people participate…
And if we take angling as a competitive sport, there is plenty for British anglers to boast about. In the last couple of weeks we have seen outstanding performances by British fly-fishing and coarse fishing teams, including quite a significant input from the disabled. The British coarse fisherman, and not just the competitive variety, has long been regarded as one of the best, if not the best, in the world. Coarse fishing teams have won numerous international victories. And as I write this, I learn that the Team England ladies’ team has won gold at the World Championships in Slovenia. And yet none of this success has rated even the slightest mention in the mainstream media. So what is wrong?
It is very easy, isn’t it, to dream up a conspiracy against anglers If we watch television, we the anglers are forced, just like everybody else, to fund the BBC through our licence fees and taxes. Just as we are obliged to pay money to the EA just to have the right to use rod and line. And in both instances it is quite on the cards that the money we contribute will be used against us: either to promote fish- and angler-unfriendly hydropower schemes, or to finance sports coverage which neglects our sport totally. But what many anglers fail to appreciate is that other so-called ‘minority’ or ‘specialised interest’ sports and activities also feel equally aggrieved. They are also liable to fall into the ‘victim mentality’ trap, and to think that they are the only ones being ignored.
But I can assure you that no such problem of victimisation exists. The only real problem is in the heads of those (like anglers) who think they are being victimised, and very quickly get used to the idea. The participants in our ‘minority’ activity have failed to stick together to protect and promote their own interests. So they get sidelined. Their complaints are largely ignored, because there is very little weight behind them. They have failed to make the general public aware of their merits and achievements. You might say they have developed victimhood into a fine art. No doubt, to see the other side of the story, there are anti-angling elements within the BBC or other sections of the media. All too often, they are the ones who get blamed. But this is much more likely on balance to be yet another case of anglers failing to make their voice heard to promote their favourite sport, and getting what they deserve as a result.
For the benefit of those of you reading this who have not really thought about it yet, I can state categorically that angling:
a. is very environmentally friendly
b. is virtually self-funding
c. does not (by contrast to many other sporting activities) require any police presence whatsoever, or need emergency services to be on hand
d. is totally participant
e. caters widely for the disabled, and
f. has given the UK (if only the UK knew it) a wealth of kudos and trophies
In fact, every single angler worth his salt should be aware of the above little list, and be able to run through the points to defend his pastime to those people we meet casually every day whose only view of angling has been shaped by their own imagination, or even worse, by the twisted propaganda of the antis and of course by the general image promoted by the media.
And every single angler worth his salt should join the single organisation which now fights on his behalf at a political level for the future of fishing, promotes angling among the young, takes legal action and lobbies government on anglers’ behalf, sends teams abroad to compete, deals with the media on anglers’ behalf, and a whole lot more besides. Yet individual membership of the Angling Trust, although it has been slowly but steadily, remains sadly at a measly 1.3 % of the total number of known individual anglers in the UK.
So if you haven’t yet done so, get on board, as they say in the yachting world, do it HERE and do it now. And add your voice to the growing number out there.
Get real, get organised, and get properly heard.