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Annual Report & Christmas Message from the Chairman

Who could have predicted that in December 2021, two years after it first reared its head, COVID-19 and its variants would still be the main news item and impacting on our way of life, and we would all be in the process of getting booster vaccinations!

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 the Federation have been very busy during 2021.  Hopefully most of you will have read our Annual Business Plan and will have been tracking progress on those issue of interest to you through our quarterly updates, but for those who haven’t, it has to be said that 2021 has been another challenging year with mixed results.  I am sure that like me you are sick and tired of hearing about the impact of COVID but it has to be said that it has continued to hamper our ability to deliver in some areas, particularly the delivery of coaching program and fielding of Internationals teams, and no doubt will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

On the positive side, the three SGBs have made a good deal of progress on the development of proposals to form Angling Scotland as a membership organisation.  The Board of Angling Scotland are planning to host a Seminar, ‘A combined future for Angling’ in January 2022   The plan is for the event to have invited participants and panel members from the three SGBs, SFCA, SANA and SFSA, and will be live streamed to give as many anglers as possible the opportunity to not only listen to the proposals but to contribute by asking questions and voicing any concerns.  While it may not be possible to take/answer every question raised by virtual participants on the day, the Board will endeavour to respond to all queries following the Seminar through posts on our websites and social media channels.  The presentations will also be shared and there will be follow up questionnaires/surveys to allow those unable to participate on the day to also have their say.  This is potentially a pivotal point in the history of the Governance of Scottish Angling, and I would encourage all of our members to put the date and time in their calendars as soon as it is published and to make time to join us virtually on the day.  The aim of the day is to both set the scene/provide an update on progress with Angling Scotland and ensure that everyone has a good understanding where we are, where we are hoping to get to and why, and to develop proposals to put to the individual SGB AGMs in early 2022 to allow us to move to the next stage in April 2023.  More information, including details of dates and times and how to join us, will be published over the next few weeks so please keep your eye on our website and social media pages.

The 2022 AGM will be held on Thursday 26th March so please put the date in your dairies now as I am intending to dedicate a sizeable slot in the AGM to providing an update on this work-strand and, as it will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the SFCA and the future of our sport, I would urge all member clubs and any interest parties to attend.  At this year’s AGM there are again a number of key appointments that need to be either re-elected or replaced.  These include the Vice Chairman Saul Gardiner and Secretary, Craig Postlethwaite who are both up for re-election, and the Policy & Environment Officers post is still vacant since Ron Woods stepped down in 2020.  I will be advertising these posts on the website and social media platforms over the Christmas period and would urge anyone who feels that they would be able to volunteer some time to assist the Executive Committee to come forward.  We really need you.  If anyone would like an informal, non-committal, chat about what is involved please feel free to email, PM or call me. There will be a range of opportunities on the Executive Committee as I am hoping to conduct a bit of a reshuffle to better utilise the knowledge skills and experience of the Committee members we have and freshen things up a bit.  But I can only do this if I have sufficient individuals to fill the core posts.

At the time of writing this Christmas message, we have 1175 individual members which includes 103 Juniors.  This is slightly down on last year’s high but still encouraging given the challenges and impact of COVID 19 over the past two years.  As I seem to say every year, there are always some individuals who decide, for one reason or another, not to renew their membership. If you are one of these individuals, I would encourage you to let us know if there is something that we are doing, not doing, or if there is something that we are not providing which has contributed to your decision not to re-join.  Only by knowing what is wrong can we hope to address it.  I would also like to know your thoughts on the GoMembership system and if there any barriers of issues with using it.  Ideally, we want to make joining the SFCA or renewing your membership as quick and easy as possible and to this end we will be publishing links to a very short membership survey to inform our work in this area.  You will be able to access it by clicking a link or scanning a QR Code, it will take no more than 5 mins to complete and you wil have the choice to enter your name/membership detail or to complete and submit it completely anonymously.  When this comes out please take a few minutes to help us better understand your needs and improve the system for everyone.  Additionally, we are always keen to hear from you so please email us with feedback, good or bad, to info@sfca.co.uk.  As usual, I would also like to call on all members of the SFCA continue to help us to promote membership of the SFCA by encouraging all of the anglers they know to join the Federation.  Being able to demonstrate a large, active and engaged membership plays a huge role in ensuring that we are able to keep coarse angling and coarse angling interests high on the agenda of Angling Scotland, sportscotland and Scottish Government.  In addition to FREE fishing across the Lowland Canal network, all SFCA individual members again receive free ‘Public Liability’ insurance cover for all of their fishing activities whether engaged in SFCA events or fishing on their own anywhere in the world. In a bid to encourage some of individuals who didn’t join this year to renew their membership, anyone who joins between 1st January 2022 and 31st March 2022 will receive a membership running right through to 31st March 2023. We are also going to run another membership prize draw on 31st January 2022.  Full details will be published early in the New Year.  The draw will be open to all individuals who are paid up Individual Members on 31st January 2022. The name of the lucky winner will be published on 1st February 2022.  Remember, you have to be an Individual Member to be included in the draw so if you have not yet joined get your application done today. 

Again, if you are experiencing any problems with the membership system, please either email chairman@sfca.co.uk or call me on 07812 241816 and I will guide you through it. 

On the domestic competitive front, the second half of 2021 saw the welcome return of some of our main Scottish National Championships which, after the break in 2020, were well attended.  I would therefore like to congratulate the following individuals on their success in 2021:

  • Brian Docherty for becoming the Scottish Veterans Champion
  • Nick Aldersey for becoming the Scottish National Champion
  • James Woodrow and David Corcoran for becoming Scottish Pairs Champions
  • Micky Birkhill for becoming the Scottish Feeder Champion
  • Steve Mann for becoming the Scottish Canal Champion
  • Chris Scott for defending his title and winning the Harvey Maule Memorial
  • And finally, Barry Young for becoming Scottish Match Angler of the Year.

It was disappointing that we were unable to run the Scottish Ladies or Junior Championships in 2021 but hopefully these will return in 2022.  From my perspective, I think that limiting the number of SFCA fixtures to those listed above plus the Ladies and Juniors is far more manageable beter compliments the other leagues and fixtures being run across the country.  We will therefore still this these fixtures going forward and test and adjust based and demand. There will be a match committee meeting in the coming weeks and we hope to have the calendar for 2022 published in early January.

Sadly COVID-19 challenges meant that we were unable to field any International Teams in 2021 as the risk of last-minute changes to travel rules was deemed too much of a risk given that the individual anglers have to foot all of the costs of participating.  Hopefully the situation will be easier in 2022 and the intention is to field teams in the following events:

Match:

Sensas Challenge, Gloucester Canal in March 2022

And either:

European Championships, R   Portugal in

Or

World Championship, R Drava, Croatia in September 2022

Feeder:

We have recently been contacted to see it we would like to field a team in a new 6 Nations Feeder Championship being planned by the Angling Trust at Barston Fisheries in October 2022.  Clearly this would be a first for Scotland but we have a good number of competent Feeder Anglers and I am hopeful that we will be able to field a highly competitive team.  More information to follow on this.

Carp:

We are hopeful of running a full calendar for 2022 having not had any competitions since the pandemic. A few members of the Scotland team competed in the BCAC shield in 2021, giving a good account of the team’s ability but unfortunately fell short of a podium finish.

Team Manager, Kevin McConnell is in conversation with the other managers from the Home Nations trying to re-shedule the Home Nations event for May 2022 and going forward this will become an annual event again. Training events will be organised in March and April to prepare the team tactically depending on the venue selected by England. Over the 3 years the event has been held, all three nations are tied on equal points so this next one will give the bragging rights to the winner.

Other matches are being organised for June (against the Army) and July (against the Tri Services and Wales) to get the team ready for the Worlds in late September, which will hopefully go ahead in Ukraine as it has been cancelled the last 2 years due to Covid.  The current escalations with Russia may however cause it to be cancelled again and the situation is being watched very carefully.

The inaugural Ladies World Championship is due to be held at Linear Fisheries in early September but we are struggling to get ladies with the right levels of knowledge, skills and experience to be able to form a team to compete at this level.  This will continue to be a main effort for 2022.

Lure:

COVID-19 again put paid to plans to form a Scottish Lure Fishing Team again in 2021, but we have been contacted by the England Team manager to try to arrange a Home International in 2022.  The intent is therefore to hold another meeting in January 2022 for all those interested in being part of a Scottish Lure Squad.  The meeting will most likely be held virtually and details will be published before Christmas.  This will again be a priority for the SFCA for 2022 and, if the COVID situation permits, will be looking to run a series of selection events, a Scottish Lure Championships and for opportunities to field our first ever Scottish Lure Team in a Home International in 2022.  More details to follow.

As a SGB, we have a duty to support the aspirations of all of our members who have a goal of representing Scotland on the International stage and to ensure that we are delivering opportunity for all.  In January 2022 I will be hosting a meeting with International Team Managers, key Senior Internationalist and a selection of coaches to review our coaching and performance pathways and to make better use of some of the performance coaching opportunities through sportscotland.  The aim will be to ensure that our structures are fit for purpose and ensure that our coaches are trained to provide future generations with the opportunities to develop the technical, tactical and psychological skills required to perform at the highest level. We will also combine this with a CPD event to deliver mandated Anti-Doping training to all of our individuals involved in the performance pathways including, anglers, coaches, managers and support staff.  Details of this will be published before Christmas and invites will be sent to all those involved.

I make no apologies for simply lifting this paragraph from last year’s Annual Report as COVID made it impossible to make any progress in this area in 2021.  Therefore, after the challenges of 2020 and 2021, our main focus for 2022 will continue to be identifying ways to provide opportunity and encourage more juniors to get into competitive angling and re-establish the junior teams.  The fact that recreational angling has been one of the few sports to have continued throughout the COVID pandemic has meant that lots more people, and particularly juniors, have taken the opportunity to try angling or come back into it.  We must now work to actively engage with these new anglers and provide them with a pathway from recreational angling, into competition if we are to have a sustainable base for our International Teams for the future.  I say this every year, and every year it remains an undeniable fact; to achieve this aim we need more coaches.  In partnership with the other SGBs, through ADBoS, we run regular UKCC L1 courses.  We just need volunteers to come forward. Coaching is exceptionally rewarding and there are Bursaries available from sportscotland to offset the training costs.  In the next few weeks, we will be publishing dates for UKCC L1 courses that will run in 2021. If you are interested in becoming trained as a coach, or know someone who might be, and would like more information please email me at chairman@sfca.co.uk or call me on 07812 241816 and I will be happy to speak to you.

As a Federation, one of our key roles is to act as the representative body for coarse anglers and coarse angling interests and to engage with and lobby Scottish Government and other key stakeholders at all levels and every forum where we can have an influence, shape future direction, and protect and promote our sport for future generations.  This has been particularly challenging over the past couple of years as COVID-19 has made communication with stakeholders more difficult and has seen the focus of Scottish Government understandably directed towards managing the roadmap through the Pandemic.  In 2022 we therefore have a deal if catching up to do.  If you want to know more about what we are doing on your behalf, please visit the website and review the Annual Business Plan which can be found at http://www.sfca.co.uk/about-us/equality-ethics-policies/policies-and-plans/. And, if there are things that are concerning you or issues where you believe we could or should be doing more to represent your interests please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We are a small, totally volunteer run Governing Body and thus totally reliant on the amount of time that those volunteers are able to commit to working on our behalf. But, as I say every year, we cannot and will not allow that to become an excuse for not setting ambitious and challenging targets or for not taking action where it is needed to represent your interest.  The Executive Committee are now beginning to work on the draft SFCA Business Plan and Risk Register for 2022/23 with a view to having it published on the website in early February for consultation.  We will, as always, ensure that clubs and individual members have at least 4 weeks to respond to the consultation prior to the AGM at the end of March where it will hopefully be ratified and issued. As always, I encourage you all to read it once it is published and provide feedback and comments through your clubs or direct to me at chairman@sfca.co.uk.  While the Executive Committee are your representatives, we do not have the monopoly on good ideas.  It is your sport, and we are your governing body, you need to tell us what is important to you. Every year I and other members of the Executive Committee hear rumblings about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, but rarely if ever does anyone actually bring these concerns to our attention or afford us to opportunity to explain why we have chosen a specific course of action.  This is your Annual opportunity to tell us what you want and voice any concerns – use it and help us to develop a Plan that delivers what the sport needs.

As we look forward to 2022 and the fresh challenges that it will undoubtedly bring, let us hope that we can finally all emerge from the shadow of the COVID pandemic and fully return to normal life.  This will allow us to reinvigorate/re-establish the programmes and work-strands that have necessarily been put on hold during these unprecedented times and begin to focus on major underlying issues facing our sport, including; find solutions to the problems around attracting and retaining youngsters in our sport; dealing with the aging demographic in match angling and, with the continuing reduction in the number of traditional clubs, find alternative access points and mechanisms to support the development of junior anglers and newcomers to the sport.  To overcome this, we will need to actively engage with clubs and fisheries to try identify solutions and also look at other sports who have experienced or are experiencing similar problems  We also need to identify and find ways to remove barriers to participation, both real and perceived, and identify and address those issues the adversely impact on our ability to retain individuals within angling. 

I would, as always, like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Executive Committee, our coaches and the other volunteers, on your behalf for the huge amount they have put in to support Scottish coarse angling over the past 12 months.  Without their commitment, determination and willingness to go that extra mile, at their own personal cost, we could not hope to protect, promote and grow the sport of coarse angling in Scotland. 

There will, as always, be a huge amount of work to do in 2022.  As I say every year, if you feel that you have a skill set that could benefit the SFCA and can spare some time, however little, we would love to hear from you.  In the meantime, I would urge you all to continue to play your part by simply promoting coarse angling as a totally accessible and ideal sport to engage and capture the imagination of young Scots, and by encouraging everyone you meet to join the SFCA. 

In closing, I know that you will all join me in wishing all of our teams every success on their return to the international stage in the coming year..  I would like to wish all of our members, and indeed all coarse anglers in Scotland, a very Merry Christmas and Tight Lines for 2022!

Gus Brindle

Chairman


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