. Fishing and Shooting MP Martin Salter looks at governing body the Angling Trust and ponders its future
The formation of the Angling Trust was a long overdue and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide a strong and unified voice for Britain's most popular participant sport. Despite last summer's financial problems, the Trust cannot be allowed to fail due to a poor initial take-up of membership, lack of resources, or as a result of a flawed and overambitious business plan.
Like most people I doubted it would be possible to get anglers to sign up in the numbers originally forecast, particularly in the middle of a severe global recession. That said, a strong
membership base is important in the long term for any organisation that is going to be taken seriously and the recent 50 per cent increase in subscriptions is welcome news. I also believe that within angling and in both Government and Parliament there remains a huge reservoir of goodwill towards the Trust and that the vast majority of people desperately want to see it succeed. In the House of Commons members from all political parties have gone out of their way to praise its creation and recognise the value of recreational angling.Listen to the voice
The recently produced Angling Trust News contains an impressive review of its activities and demonstrates how effective it has been despite its lack of staff and funding in providing a strong voice for angling across a range of issues. MPs were particularly impressed with the briefing from the Trust in advance of the Commons Fisheries debate in December. This is the first time this has happened in very many years and was a welcome indication of increased professionalism on behalf of the recreational angling sector.
Our sport is now in the most powerful place it has ever been and the only people who can undermine it are anglers themselves. The original business plan was flawed and hopelessly over-optimistic in terms of projected membership in the first year. Despite a disappointing initial take-up of membership and a challenging financial position, good progress has been made in the first year.
Inevitably, this has had a negative impact on the financial situation although remedial action last summer looks like minimising the end of year deficit and moving into a balanced budget in 2010. Critics should also bear in mind the Trust inherited a parlous financial situation from at least two of its constituent bodies - the National Federation of Anglers and the National Federation of Sea Anglers.Advice squad
Initially, I very much supported the creation of the Advisory Panelled by John Wilson's 'Magnificent Seven' but I have to say how disappointing it has been to see very little evidence of more than a handful of members actively using their prominent positions to promote membership of the Trust. Indeed, some of these high-profile figures - who pledged their support and commitment to the body in October - have been somewhat negative in their endeavours and do not appear to want to be part of any solution. There have been some real exceptions but it is fundamentally dishonest to claim to be supporting an organisation in public while undermining it behind the scenes.
The Advisory Panel cannot operate as a parallel organisation and the Trust cannot simply adopt policy positions on the basis of what 'the famous' say without reference to the membership. I don't think any of us longstanding members of the Anglers' Conservation Association joined because of one or two 'famous names'. We did so because we believed in its aims and objectives and wanted to support it financially. In my view, any panel should operate as a sounding board and point of access to assistance and expertise. Those who don't wish to constructively engage with the Trust and its members should not be part of the panel.
Despite a disappointing initial take-up of membership and a challenging financial position, good progress has been made in the first year. I have been particularly pleased with the
changes at board level and with Mike Heylin taking over as chairman. We have come too far to see the Trust fail, to do so would make angling a laughing stock and set us back many years, and, in any case, what's the alternative?
Martin Salter writing for Tackle & Guns - May 2010TAC