The Angling Trust has been working with leading anglers and fisheries in the match fishing community to gain agreement for competitions to resume in compliance with the Government’s guidance on organised gatherings and sporting events.
Riverfest organiser Dave Harrell, England internationals Steve Ringer and Dean Barlow and Lindholme fishery boss Aaron Grantham are amongst a group of highly experienced match fishing enthusiasts who have been working with the Angling Trust to deliver robust new guidelines to bring competition fishing in line with COVID-19 procedures which, it is hoped, will secure the necessary agreement from Government to allow match fishing to resume as soon as possible.
The current Government guidance states:
The limit on gatherings – no more than two, unless members of the same household – means that it is unlikely to be possible to organise amateur events or competitions at this time. The Government is clear that sports participation should be restricted to participants exercising by themselves, or with members from their same household, or a minimum of two metres apart from one member of another household, observing social distancing guidelines. Venues are advised to display signs to this effect. The police have been given powers to enforce these measures.
Some fisheries have argued that because angling competitions can be arranged without any form of gathering of more than two persons and that individual competitors will always be at 2 metres distance, it is possible to comply with the Government’s coronavirus guidance. The Angling Trust are seeking formal clarification from the Police and Government and have submitted the new best practice guide for match fishing in support of their case.
Aaron Grantham of Lindholme Lakes said: “I am working with the Angling Trust to ensure that we can bring back competitions in a safe and compliant way. I can assure you that we are doing all we can to achieve this goal for match anglers and I have been impressed by how owners, fisheries, organisers, clubs and individuals have come together with the Trust to find a route forward that adheres with Government guidance.”
Damian Bracken commented: “Having contacted the Angling Trust to question the position on competitions I was invited to help develop the argument as to how and why matches could restart under the COVID-19 restrictions. Whilst I have been able to use some of my workplace experience I am first and foremost a match angler and can honestly say that every effort is being made to get competitions back. It is great to see top names in the sport working with fisheries and match organisers to plot a way forward.”
Consultation with insurance brokers has suggested that due to the Government’s guidance on organised gatherings and sporting events it is likely that insurers would not cover fisheries or organisers who were found to be running competitions at this time. Therefore it is crucial that agreement is received from the appropriate authorities to provide a safe and compliant route towards the resumption of competitions.
Dave Harrell has been working to draft guidance applicable to all disciples of angling. He said: “As main co-ordinator for the RiverFest competition, it was vitally important to me that we addressed the issue of how matches could be safely organised again. I therefore spoke at length with the organisers of many of the qualifying matches in different parts of the country to get their thoughts and opinions. I was very impressed with the level of professionalism and attention to detail and I believe that the guidelines the Angling Trust has now put together are the way forward. While coronavirus is still a danger, by following a simple step-by-step procedure, match anglers can once again look forward to doing what they enjoy most and doing it safely.”
The Angling Trust best practice document has been presented to Sport England and the Government.
Jamie Cook, Angling Trust’s CEO, said: “We committed to move from phase 1 to phase 2 of our plan as quickly as practically possible. Whilst sports are restricted to participation with no more than one other individual we are confident that angling competitions can be conducted within social distancing guidance and as a result we have worked with the match fishing community to present a blueprint which can offer a compliant return to competitive angling.
“The Government state that it is unlikely it would be practical to organise amateur events or competitions under the current restrictions. However, we believe we have shown how this is safely achievable and are working on behalf of competition anglers of all disciplines.
“I want to thank the many match anglers and fisheries who have taken responsible action and particularly those who have offered constructive input. I offer my personal apology for any impression given that competition anglers were not at the forefront of our efforts and for any offence caused. I want to assure everyone that as the organiser of 360 competitions per year, the Angling Trust focus is on ensuring a return to regular match fishing as soon as we possibly can.”
Steve Ringer and Dean Barlow have been two of the leading anglers consulted. Dean commented: “We have consulted top fisheries and clubs from all aspects of match fishing to come up with a set of guidelines to get us match fishing again safely.”