The Angling Trust is having a bit of a struggle getting angling recognised as being worthy of charitable status. We’ve been struggling with this for several years, writing repeatedly to the Charity Commission to make our case, not getting replies within promised timescales, and then writing again to make our case once more. Although there are plenty of organisations that can get charitable status for work which uses angling for the benefit of young people (such as our friends at Get Hooked on Fishing) or for the benefit of people who have served in the armed forces (such as Fishing for Heroes) or for anglers supporting environmental improvement (such as the Salmon & Trout Association), it is not possible to get it for simply promoting angling as a sport. In fact, the Charity Commission actually lists angling specifically as an example of a sport which is not regarded as a sport because it is not ‘healthy’.
This is an important battle to win. It’s not just that we don’t like being listed as an unhealthy activity; charitable status would be a real practical boost to angling clubs and organisations working for the good of angling. It would mean that they could get tax credits on donations and subscriptions for example, so that they would have more money to do what they do. At a time when resources are tight, we need to do everything we can to maximise income to support work that is helping to deliver our National Angling Strategy which aims to get more people fishing more often.
We’ve made great progress over the past 10 years in angling by getting Sport England to recognise us as a sport, and to fund our angling participation work, but it is clear that many people still see angling as an unhealthy and sedentary activity. It’s true that there are some forms of angling which do not require much exertion, but there are many others that involve long walks and repeated vigorous casting that leave you feeling absolutely exhausted by the evening. I’d like to take some of those commissioners out for a day fishing on the Findhorn – it involves a 4 mile walk, some quite challenging rock climbing and occasional swimming (usually accidental!). We’re all aware of the psychological benefits of fishing as well, and the mental challenge it offers. When I go fishing I find myself completely absorbed in another world, thinking only about how to catch fish. The stress and strain of working life melt away and I quite simply feel better in myself.
Of course angling is good for your health, we all know that, but they don’t know it because angling is invisible to people who don’t do it. We conceal ourselves behind bushes in camouflage clothing and try to find the most remote places away from other people, because that’s the best way to catch more fish. In fact, all the most active types of fishing are the ones which people don’t usually see.
The Angling Trust is doing a lot of work to promote the positive, healthy, wholesome side of angling to try and change attitudes towards our sport. Attitudes matter, because they make affect people when they are drafting bad policy that damages our ability to enjoy our pastime, and to help others discover its many joys.
We will keep fighting to protect the image, as well as the reality, of angling.
To support the Angling Trust, visit www.anglingtrust.net/join and spend less than 5 minutes signing up as a member. You can now join for as little as £2.50 a month, less than the price of a pint of beer, or a 2 litre carton of freshly-squeezed orange juice.