Disability laws could make matches illegal

The future of matchfishing in this country could be changed forever if the sport’s governing body refuses to embrace national disability laws.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, the Angling Trust has a duty to ensure all its members have equal opportunities to take part in competitions. And that means that every peg in the draw bag must be fishable by a disabled angler or the event is ‘illegal’ and can’t take place.

But with so few venues offering full disability access, huge question marks now hang over large matches run on commercial waters.

The revelation comes after a disabled angler has been told he can only apply for four of this year’s 16 Fish O’Mania qualifiers, because there are only four fisheries with pegs he can access.

Now Tony Robertson, a Fish O’ finalist in 2009, is set to attend an emergency meeting with the Angling Trust, which runs the competition on behalf of Matchroom Sport.

The news comes in the wake of an out-of-court settlement in which a disabled angler was paid £2,000 compensation by Bathampton AA for the distress he experienced in trying to access one of its venues.

And an Angling Times investigation has now revealed that all open competitions on commercial fisheries ¬ from the famous £25,000 event to small local matches ¬ must make proper provision for the disabled, otherwise organisers risk breaking the law.

“I’m not that interested in courts or laws, all I want is as fair a pop as your next man at entering the pinnacle of matchfishing,” said Teesside angler Tony, who has been in a wheelchair for 22 years and wants to see equality in ticket allocation.

“I pay my entry and my Angling Trust membership, so is it too much to ask to get a flat peg to fish from? I got to the final last year on merit. One idea I’ve put forward is for one disabled-friendly peg to be put in every section at each qualifier,” he said.

Tony has even had to have re-draws in past open matches because he was unable to access the platform of the peg he’d initially drawn, and wants to avoid a similar scenario on a big stage such as Fish O’Mania.

Terry Moseley, president of the British Disabled Angling Association, is also set to attend the forthcoming meeting but he is not expecting any changes to this year’s event.

“If it’s not a competition open to everyone there has to be an alternative ¬Fish O’Mania already has junior and ladies’ versions ¬ or a way of making it accessible,” he said.