Would you pay £20 to The Angling Trust to safeguard our sport?

Would you be prepared to pay £20 to safeguard the future of your sport?

That’s the question set to be asked of anglers from January 1 by Mark Lloyd, leader of fishing’s new governing body, The Angling Trust.

Sunday, October 19 will see representatives of each of angling’s big five organisations – the NFA, NFSA, NAFAC, SAA and ACA – meet to sign the final merger agreement at the Tackle & Guns trade show in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

Current ACA boss Mark will also unveil The Angling Trust’s blueprint for the future of
our sport, how it will be run and what it could achieve given enough support.

Aside from the benefits offered by a strong membership package, the emergence in January – after decades of failed efforts – of a single governing body to represent all angling interests in England, however diverse, will be nothing short of miraculous.

However, concerns remain within the sport over how the new organisation can be properly financed, resulting in the Trust’s commitment to securing funding for angling via the rod licence, possibly in the form of a levy as suggested by Martin Salter MP.

If too few anglers sign up, then the Trust could collapse and the sport would be left with no governing body to represent the interests of millions.

“Failure is not an option,” insisted Mark Lloyd, while taking a brief break from the 16-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week marathon challenge he has embarked upon to get the new body up and running.

“The formation of The Angling Trust is an exciting development because it will at long last offer a professional, high-profile and powerful voice for everyone who fishes with rod and line.

“Anglers must now stand up and be counted – and make it their New Year’s resolution to join,” added Mark.

The Trust has also been in discussion with the Environment Agency, striking a deal that could see its promotional material posted direct to 800,000 rod licence holders in March, thereby allowing it to directly target a huge part of its potential customer base within weeks of its launch.

Mike Heylin, the Specialist Anglers’ Alliance representative on the transition board, is now putting the onus on anglers to step up and put something back into their favourite sport.

“We need people to join and fund this organisation. If anglers don’t join then they’ll only have themselves to blame if their sport ends up poorly represented,” explained Mike.

“Everything is now in place to make this new body a great success. With the support
of numbers and revenue the Trust will ensure that angling can compete on a level playing field with the likes of the RSPB,” he added.

What members will get

The Trust aims to take over all the services and functions carried out by the current governing bodies – fighting pollution, representing and defending angling’s interests, running events and competitions, and offering a range of member services – and then improve and expand upon them.

It aims to protect, develop and promote angling; manage national and international competitions; campaign on behalf of members; and fight to conserve and restore freshwater and marine fisheries.

Its logo, subscription details and manifesto will be unveiled before the new body is officially launched in January. The aim is to attract 100,000 individual members by 2011, together with most of the country’s fishing clubs, groups and associations.
Membership benefits will include a loyalty programme that earns cashback on purchases of angling permits and tackle, together with tackle insurance and other attractive services.

The case for a levy

Many anglers and members of the angling trade believe that a nominal levy of, say, £2 on the rod licence is the only way to fund the new body and make it fully representative, especially if the present rod licence were expanded to include sea anglers. But the levy remains a thorny issue.

Those setting up the new organisation fear that anglers wouldn’t pay for full membership if they thought a licence levy was imminent. However, putting a levy in place would require the formation of primary legislation taking at least four years to set up and push through Parliament, and only then if it received the necessary political support.