Idea to aid Trust with rod licence levy is opposed

Roy WebsterBroads anglers are up in arms over a leaked report that secret meetings are being conducted behind closed doors to fund the cash-strapped Angling Trust with �1-a-head attached to the fishing rod licence fees.Roy Webster

Broads anglers are up in arms over a leaked report that secret meetings are being conducted behind closed doors to fund the cash-strapped Angling Trust with �1-a-head attached to the fishing rod licence fees.

The Trust has just completed its first year's operation but so far the silence from its executive Mark Lloyd and the remains of the so- called magnificent seven celebrity anglers who volunteered to rescue the organisation has been deafening.

It is understood that membership peaked last year at around 12,000, well short of the 20,000 required to punt �20 apiece to keep the ship afloat.

An optimistic forecast that 100,000 anglers would be prepared to cough up the annual subscription was based rather more on inflated hopes than a detailed investigative poll of the angling fraternity.

According to one insider last week the Trust, that was hailed as the great saviour by its supporters with an almost messianic faith is virtually bankrupt, despite financial aid and donations.

It is now suggested if the expected numbers of anglers do not come forward to bridge the financial gulf with their �20 per annum subscriptions the next target for survival is around one million licence holders perhaps being obliged to part with an extra quid on the rod licence.

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This avenue, far from paved with gold is more a rough track of cavernous traps of grass-roots discontent and opposition.

Tony Gibbons, the chairman of the Norwich and District Anglers Association, is set to oppose strenuously any proposal of Trust funding through the rod licence.

'It would be quite wrong to force anglers to subscribe to the Trust against their will. I am therefore opposed to this idea on principle,' he declared.

Great Yarmouth's former England international angler Dave Docwra compared funding the Trust through the rod licence fees with its equivalent of taking membership of the Automobile Association through the vehicle road fund tax. 'I would support this proposal if it was discretionary, but if it is forced upon us I shall simply forward the appropriate sum for my rod licence to the Environment Agency without anything extra included for the Angling Trust.

'I think that thousands of anglers will take this view resulting in chaos,' he declared.

Taverham pensioner Gordan Dixon, 73, who winched out North Walsham Kingfisher's record match haul of 222lb 5oz last year, pointed out that his concessionary licence had been upped by more than �4.

He added: 'I'm not prepared to pay another �1 on the licence to benefit an organisation I know nothing about.'

The long-serving secretary of the Alysham and District Angling Society, Keith Sutton, said he believed the Environment Agency possessed no legal basis for collecting Angling Trust finance through the rod licence.

'The fishing licence is a statutory instrument allowing anglers to fish with rod and line.

'I do not believe the EA can lawfully become involved in the Angling Trust's financial affairs, or raising funds on its behalf.'

The EA has not issued any official statement on this issue but at least two local angling club officials have been tipped off that secret discussions had gone ahead. In the meantime, Jonathan Wilson, the Regional Officer of the Angling Board, is inviting angling club representatives and interested individuals to attend the inaugural meeting of the Norfolk County Angling Action Group tomorrow night, 7pm, in the Turner Road centre in Norwich.

Wilson hopes to raise the profile of the sport across the county resulting in more funding for angling clubs while developing and increasing the number of angling coaches and links between clubs and schools.