Last week’s Division 3 National saw an attendance of just 23 teams, the lowest in the 38-year history of the blue riband divisional events, prompting the question does anyone really care about the Nationals any more?
At the event fished on the New Junction and South Yorkshire Navigation Canals, anglers were also told that 2010 will see the Division 3 event become defunct, those two dozen teams joining the 38 in the current Division Two event to leave just two events where once there were six.
That would leave a rough figure of 130 teams to fish, a far cry from the mammoth 458 that entered across the board in 1991, so just how has it come to this? Keith Arthur, a National veteran of over 25 years, has his thoughts on what’s happened and, more importantly, how these ailing competitions can be taken forward.
“I said last year that we needed two divisions, but the then NFA didn’t listen and now it’s come to this,” blasted Keith. “If we get 100 teams fishing across the board next year we’ll do well and I do fear that we could end up with no event at all, which would be a disaster for matchfishing. The system needs a kick up the behind!”
His plan is for regional qualifiers open to all, culminating in qualifiers for a big All-England final fished on the same day every year to CIPS international rules, allowing bloodworm and banning legering – a proper match.
“Nothing will happen though,” Keith continued. “The people running the Nationals are the ones who’ve been doing it for the last 20 years. They haven’t got any new ideas and won’t change. It needs the likes of Mark Downes, Tommy Pickering and Steve Sanders to drag the sport kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.”
One of those men could be England co-manager Mark Addy, another National veteran. However, he feels the time for big team events has gone.
“Keith’s idea is great, but I think he’d struggle to get the teams to fish,” Mark said. “So many people fish the National these days for themselves, for a shot at a bit of glory. We’ll pretty soon end up with no summer bloodworm fishing on natural venues and from an England point of view that frightens me. I don’t think there’s a solution – team fishing has seen the best of it.”