Just before Christmas the big news was that the Angling Trust has been awarded £1.8m to grow participation in angling over the next 4 years. There’s been a mixed reaction to this in the media and on the blogs – some people have criticised the Trust for not getting more funding or for it not being directed at other areas of the sport, such as our international teams. What they don’t know is how difficult it is to get government funding for anything, and how tight the criteria are for what it can be spent on.
The award is of course great news, and without a lot of hard work and innovation, we might well have got nothing. It’s true that this award is much less than other sports will receive over the same period. Angling is not an Olympic sport and we still have some way to go before we can convince Sport England to increase our funding more than they have already. Sport England is absolutely clear that they will not fund our international teams.
Bidding for this funding has taken most of the last year and we have put hundreds of hours of work into doing so. It might be useful to provide a bit of background. Over the last four years, the Angling Development Board (now part of the Angling Trust) was funded to build the capacity for angling to increase participation. This included training 1,400 coaches, creating 35 County Angling Action Groups and getting 91 clubs to achieve Clubmark accreditation, which helps them attract funding from County Sports Partnerships for angling participation. This funding has now come to an end and we were invited, along with 46 other sports, to bid for funding for the next four years from Sport England.
Early this year, Sport England was told by its sponsoring department, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, that the key aim of the 2013-2017 funding cycle would be to increase weekly participation. Whether the sport takes an hour or less and could be undertaken during a weekday lunch break or dark evening, such as swimming or running, or whether the activity took a longer time such as angling, all sports are being treated the same. Therefore our plans had to focus on this narrow objective and they made it very clear that unless we did so, we would get no money at all.
Because angling is generally pretty time-consuming, and can be expensive, getting more people fishing once a week is quite a challenge. The good news for angling is that only a small proportion of anglers fish once a week, so there is lots of potential for growth! Our plans had to show that we could achieve Sport England’s objectives with all these constraints. We have therefore focussed our bid on making it easy and affordable for people to go fishing more often. This work will help build our capacity to deliver other objectives, with funding from other sources, but it will have to focus on this objective.
During the bid process, Sport England told us to limit our bid to £1.5m and to focus our bid on increasing angling participation among older anglers and anglers with disabilities. This was after our first draft bid was significantly larger and included programmes aimed at children and young adults. It should also be noted that £1.5m would have been a reduction in the last four years’ level of funding, which was a position we did not wish to be in. Our final bid was therefore quite bold, because it was pitched at £2.35m. The early feedback from Sport England was positive and they welcomed our approach.
As we now know, we were partly successful in increasing the funding above the £1.5m limit they had imposed. We would have liked more, but it was a very competitive process and the people at Sport England are keen to support sports like athletics and netball which are seen to be more intensely active. However much we might have got, the funding would still have to be spent on increasing the frequency of angling participation and be targeted at the older age groups.
This funding from Sport England is only part of the package we are preparing. We have been working over the past year to develop a National Angling Strategy – Fishing For Life – which aims to prepare the ground for new funding from the Environment Agency and others to support growth of angling participation among other age groups and to recruit new anglers. When we put all this together, it becomes an integrated approach to getting more people going fishing more often, which is what we are all about.
Until they change their position on funding our elite anglers, our teams will have to continue to rely on self-funding and the limited sponsorship that we have been able to secure to support them. We intend to review our domestic competitions across all three disciplines to see if any funds can be made available from those competitions to help support our national teams and we will continue to fight for more sponsorship for our Team England anglers.
So, to secure these funds is a major achievement given the constraints imposed by the government and its funding agencies. But we will keep battling to win more funding from a wide range of sources to support angling in all its forms, for all age groups. With all these funders, the reality is that we have to dance to their tune. I think we have done a very good job to secure this support in the current climate.