by Drew Callan, Press Officer

AGM Report - January 2014

The National Flying Club held its 2014 AGM on Saturday 11th January at the usual location of Alveley in Shropshire. A combination of illness and a few long standing commitments meant that a few of the regulars were missing from around the committee table but it was business as usual for the remainder of us under the guidance and gavel of our chairmain Mick Mc Grevy. The members had been presented with a total of seven propositions on which to vote and all were carried with a healthy majority in all cases which reflects a confidence in the committee and how they manage the club for the members. There were no big shocks amongst the proposals; some were a result of an audit of the club rules that had been undertaken by John Preece at the request of the committee and these have now been updated and brought in to line with current thinking and practice. The most significant of the rule changes I think has been the deletion of Clock rule 15 which required at least 6 competing clocks for a clock station to still be allowed to function. In reality this is not practical and I know from personal experience sometimes there are only 2 or 3 members who use my local clock station and I know they might not compete if they were required to travel to another station. The existing rule did not allow for the convenience and flexibility that the National Flying Club has been affording members over the past 4 or 5 seasons. Another significant change was the positive response to the proposal that allows non NFC rung young birds to compete in the young bird national. Members will now be allowed to enter these young birds at an additional fee of £3.00 on top of the existing race entry fee, so let’s hope members support this when it comes to the young bird national in September and remember that from this year, old cocks can compete alongside the old hens for an old bird national race.

Another area that was discussed by the committee at length was the cost of maintaining the 11 marking stations that are available to the members for each race. The treasurer provided facts and figures that showed a wide discrepancy in the cost of running each station and which helped to explain the £9,000 that it cost the NFC to subsidise these marking stations. It is in the interests of all members to keep the costs down as the savings can be fed back in to prize money for members. The general feeling was that if we are to maintain this number of marking stations then it was up to the members to step up to the mark and for more of them to volunteer their services at each of the marking stations. At Steventon, where I mark my birds, it is not uncommon to see people jump on to help out and I always give an hour of my time when I attend as do other committee members such as Richard Howey and Mark Gilbert. We give our time for free and I am sure that this happens at most marking stations across the country, but the figures don’t lie and at present we have marking stations that cost an average of 14p per bird and marking stations with comparable or less birdage that cost 55p per bird to run. The committee have now addressed this with the aim of maintaining a standardised cost per bird for each marking station and the secretary will be writing to station I/Cs in due course. I think the key to this is having more people involved providing their time voluntarily. Alongside the standardised charges the committee have also implemented a necessary increase in the marking fee so for the 2014 season members will be charged a £2.00 marking fee per race, an increase from the £1.00 fee that has been in place for many years.

The committee then moved on to revisiting the race programme that had been set at the previous committee meeting in October. Several committee members had been contacted by members who were concerned about the first race being from Fougeres, with members being at the mercy of domestic race programmes that would only be around the 160 mile mark. The committee were aware that members in the southerly sections would only be looking at a race at around the 110-140 mile mark if we went to Carentan and this was noted, but felt that the race would still be well supported by all section as the birdage for 2013 showed. In the end the committee felt that Carentan should be substituted as the first racepoint as this was on average 60-70 mile shorter and was seen as a fairer option for the birds and fanciers so early in the season. So the members will now have the following race programme to compete in during the 2014 season:

24th May   Carentan

7th June     Cholet

21st June    Messac

4th July       Tarbes

26th July     Saintes

6th September Young bird and old bird national Fougeres

The final main point of discussion was the feedback from the section sub committee with proposed section changes. If you remember we implemented this at the 2013 AGM with the function of the sub committee being to collate and consider suggested changes to the current sections. It was made clear that the process would be driven by the members and they were encouraged to approach their committee delegates with their views and concerns. These would then be brought to the full management committee who would look at the merits of each in terms of financial viability and being in the best interests of the club. I stated at the time that we were leaving ourselves wide open for change but we felt that in terms of transparency it was important for the process to be given an opportunity. Well here we are 1 year later and there were 2 proposals on the table for discussion. The first of these was to create a new section comprising of the county of Cornwall with the section boundary being the county boundary. The main concern with this proposal was the two resultant sections the new Cornwall section and the remainder of the current Section D would have a low birdage that would detract from the prestige that should be associated with winning your section in the National Flying Club. It was also felt that it would not be in the interest of the club to sanction the creation of significantly smaller sections, and this was reflected in the majority of feedback that members have given to committee members.  The second proposal was to split Section E vertically along the 0 Meridian. This section has been a bone of contention for quite a few years and I find it a particularly interesting one. It is fair to say that the section is poorly represented the further east you travel and numerous reasons have been offered, but to try and redress some of the balance the committee is strongly supporting the new marking station in Kent and we have had a national winner from it this year. Furthermore, the general view has always been that the members in the east are unhappy with the current size, but the membership has been less that vocal about bringing in change through the current sub committee route and with the exception of one or two lone voices the  feedback garnered by the committee has been that the members at present are content to leave things as they are. In the end the committee felt that neither proposal was viable at present and will not be putting them for mandating to the membership. The committee noted that some members will not be happy with the decision, but would like to assure all members that the issue has not been whitewashed over merely for the sake of maintaining the current status quo. The reality is that cannot justify affecting a change that is not currently seen as being in the best interests of the majority of members.

As with all AGMs the posts are vacated and there is the usual stampede by interested parties to fill the posts that they felt were poorly executed during the previous year - or not as the case may be. All post holders were returned to carry on the hard work for another year, a reflection of the confidence that they are held in. At committee level all current representatives were returned with the exception of Section J where it was all change with both Ray Scriven and John Preece stepping down to be replaced by John Barnet and Geoff Kirkland. On a personal note I think Ray will be sorely missed as he has the memory of an elephant and is always willing to speak his mind, but he has decided that he needs to scale back on what he does and realises that there is much more to he enjoyed in life. Ray, if we meet up in Holland again this year I will buy you a pickpot or a hot dog.  John Preece has only been on the committee for a year but has undertaken a sterling job in shaking up our rule book and streamlining it. Richard Howey raised the issue that he may not continue after next year as the representative for Section H , but it is hoped that he will continue as he brings a sense of fair play and a wealth of experience to the meetings and will always speak up for the interests of his section members. Once more we are without a representative from Section B so if you fancy giving it a go then we have our next meeting in April, and I appreciate it is a long drive up to Shropshire but you could lift share with your neighbouring reps and it is only 3 times a year, and the bonus is that you get your photo taken with Paul Naum and Eamon Kelly… a gift that money cant buy.

Finally, I would like to briefly thank our sponsors for 2013. Van Robaeys have done a fantastic job at supplying top quality corn that befits the quality of the athletes in the basket, and I will return to them later. Hartwells gave us fantastic support in 2013 and provided us with a car for the members to compete for, and their support continues in 2014 with the amazing offer of 2 cars to compete for again with each member having a free single bird car nom.

So folks, there you have it. As I write this it’s only 10 weeks before the commencement of domestic racing in my area and a mere 16 weeks until we compete for the car from Carentan in the opening race of the 2014 season. May I wish you all luck and remind you that somewhere out there we have 7 national winners and 2 car winners waiting to be discovered… Good luck to all.

Drew Callan

Press Officer NFC