For the first time since 1906, when the inaugural NFA National Championship was fished, the ‘Nationals’ as they are now known, will commence prior to the traditional June 16 new season next year (2003).

NFA National Executive officer, Mick Turner, explained “We have enjoyed a super sponsorship agreement with Embassy but although we have a legal contract for the Embassy Nationals in place until 2004 the government has declared its intention to outlaw tobacco sponsorship and advertising and the likely date for the ban is July 30, 2003. This leaves us with no alternative but to fit all the Embassy sponsored events in by the end of July.”

The first of the country’s longest running angling competition is the Embassy Division Five National on the Shropshire Union Canal on May 31: This is followed by the Embassy Ladies at Woodlands View, Droitwich, on June 7: The Embassy Division Four National is on the Bridgewater Canal on June 21 followed by the Embassy Division Three event on the middle and tidal reaches of the River Trent on July 5.

This National will be ‘double-pegged.’ The Embassy Veterans will be at Hallcroft Fisheries, Retford Notts on Wednesday, July 9 while the Embassy Division Two clash will take place on the River Soar and Loughborough Canal on July 19. The Embassy Division One National, the country’s blue riband team event, is on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, Thorne on July 26.

NFA President, Ken Ball, said: “If we lose the Embassy sponsorship it will be a great blow to angling. Imperial Tobacco has sponsored the sport for 32-years; this is the longest tobacco sponsorship of any sport in the UK. 

Both Rodney Coldron and myself represent angling on the tobacco Task Force and we intend to continue fighting against the enforced ban on tobacco sponsorship and advertising to the bitter end. In fact Rodney contacted Martin Salter MP, the Minister for Sport’s new angling minister, on Monday requesting an urgent response to his e-mail dated April 24, relating to the NFA’s legal contract with Embassy which does not expire until October 2004.

“Next year (2003) is our centenary year and if it is our last year of sponsorship with Embassy we will go out with a bang! Match angling will want to recognise the fact that Embassy have been brilliant sponsors for our sport and there is no way we will let them slip away unnoticed.”