Match fishing to resume immediately as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed

Robust new best practice guidelines published by the Angling Trust to bring match fishing in line with Covid-19 procedures have been agreed by the Government as a basis for competitions to resume immediately. These include no gathering of competitors for the draw or prize giving and special equipment and arrangements to maintain social distancing during the weigh-in.

The Angling Trust guidelines were produced in consultation with leading anglers, organisers and fisheries in the match fishing community across all angling disciplines.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) made clear in their announcement and supporting literature on 13 May, 2020 that it was unlikely that competitions could be undertaken across any sporting discipline.

However, the Angling Trust compiled a case for the best practice guidelines to form the basis on which match fishing could comply with both the overarching Government guidance that accompanies the Coronavirus regulations and the specific prohibitions on public gatherings of more than two people from different households. Failure to follow these guidelines would almost certainly invalidate the insurance of clubs or fisheries and would expose anglers, and therefore the wider public, to a great risk of infection.

In the submission to the DCMS, Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook set out the reasons why competition fishing was different to other sports in ways which make it potentially compliant with the correct safeguards in place. These included:
Fishing competitions involve no contact between competitors and is more or less the comparison of catch returns at the end of the day

Social distancing is maintained at all times during an angling competition

There are no spectators

No competitor is allowed to make contact with another competitor or their equipment

The Angling Trust best practice document was presented to Sport England and the DCMS and both agreed they were 'sensible' and could be issued as the basis for a safe resumption of match fishing in England. In response, DCMS also stated that they were looking for sports to satisfy themselves that all guidance they are producing for their members adheres to the overarching guidance published by the Government.

Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook welcomed the response saying: "We were always committed to move through the phases of our plan for the resumption of all forms of angling as quickly as possible, bearing in mind the changes in Government guidance and the need to present angling as a safe and responsible outdoor activity.

"It's because we have acted sensibly and professionally that the Government is happy to see the Angling Trust guidelines as the basis for a return to competitive fishing in all angling disciplines."

However, he added: "My message to match anglers and organisers is not to take this for granted, particularly when many other sports are restricted to participation with no more than one other individual. By all means enjoy fishing matches again but please do so safely by following our guidelines to minimise the risk."

Separate guidelines have been produced for game, coarse and sea angling competitions but Charter boat fishing is still not compliant under the current regulations.

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