I thought I would just pen some of my thoughts about the sport for the community to consider and perhaps contribute some responses and different opinions .
The Crazy Prices being Paid for Pigeons
The advent of artificial insemination has led to the number of progeny from one ‘Bull Cock’ to be practically unlimited and certainly on the continent hundreds of youngsters are produced from one cock. Therefore there can be some economic sense in paying a high sum for a successful and well publicised champion cock when one can breed hundreds of young birds each year and sell them at high prices.
The financial picture for hens is obviously different as the number of eggs a hen can lay and the number of youngsters one successfully rear is limited.
There are mixed opinions as to whether these high prices and good or bad for the sport and whether it will be dominated by rich flyers buying expensive well promoted birds from famous fanciers. The percentages for breeding successful racing pigeons from illustrious parents is not very good for the buyer. Even champion pigeons generally breed more pigeons that are unsuccessful in fact it is a rarity for any pigeon to breed a champion and that is one of the reasons why the sport is so fascinating. I would comment that even if Champion parents bred youngsters capable of winning there is the small matters of the environment and the fancier to mess things up. There are still many champion pigeons coming from lofts that are creating their own strain.
I will admit I myself am a bit of a sucker for fancy pedigrees as I feel that there must be a marginally better chance of a good pigeon being bred from a successful racing parents than from parents with no racing achievements. I would comment that I have put the word racing in the sentence I am suspicious of pigeons that are bred too far from the real selection of the ‘basket’ I like parents that have performed or grandparents that have bred winners to be the parents of pigeons I buy.
Big Flyers to dominate the Sport of Pigeon Racing
There is a danger that Fanciers who enter large numbers of pigeons in races at all levels will dominate the sport to the detriment of the smaller fancier.
There is an argument that these bigger flyers support the sport and their greater financial contribution in entry fees support the smaller and even average flyer. This might be the case, but not if the smaller flyers leave the sport as they feel they can no longer compete. Some of the larger Flyers are gaining a reputation as great flyers this in my opinion is not always the case if they are entering a 100 pigeons in a race and a small flyer enters say two or three and the larger flyer wins the race with a non nominated pigeon and the smaller flyer comes second with their top nominated pigeon, I know my opinion as to who is the Top Flyer. I also know where I would buy my pigeons from although large flyers can publish some impressive results I would like to see all pigeon racing results to include the following information
Pigeon, race point, distance, average velocity, number or pigeons entered in the race, number of pigeons sent by fancier.
I would comment on who I admire most in the sport of pigeon racing, I am envious of the small fancier who may only have a race team of 10 widowhood cocks who regularly appears in the results throughout the program and whose nominated pigeon is always in the first few clocked. I am always humbled by the fanciers who rarely appear in the results but support their clubs and sport year on year and have real passion and affection for their birds and the sport of pigeon racing, they are in all seriousness better sportsmen then me, I am forever chasing success, looking for improvements and better results.
National Pigeon Races
A National Race one would think as its name implies be National i.e. a complete Nation, anything less I feel is in breech of the sales description act. I mention this as many races on the continent are billed as ‘Nationals’ although they are often not and sometimes do not even cover a Province. Imagine the confusion for Chinese Buyers paying inflated prices for National Champion pigeons – who has bought the National Champion one of them or non of them?
In the UK we have the likes of the ‘Midlands National’ now what does that mean it certainly does not mean National ( it is one of my personal gripes that I am less than a mile outside the arbitrary southern border, which I freely admit that if I was included I would have an advantages position to many other flyers) It is also not ‘The Midlands’ flyers in Norfolk e.g. would not consider themselves as living in the Midlands
The Up North Combine does not seem to need to inclusion of the word National in its title. In my opinion this is one of the most prestigious and difficult races to win due to the combination of factors, its high level of support, the number of pigeons entered and the average distance flown by the winning pigeons.
Trendy Pigeon Strains and Pedigrees
What is being done to Stop the Decline of the Sport of Pigeon Racing
Many years ago when I started racing pigeons I thought the regulators of the sport were living in the past and simply out of date.
Now 25/30 years further on when I could be considered as old and out of date sadly I still think the authorities and regulators are out of date.
I use to get excited about the abysmal qualities of conveyors especially when pigeons were obviously released in dreadful conditions and there was the inevitable ‘smash’. There was rarely an automatic investigation into a race if the losses where say over 20% it would take a grass routes protest and representations and this rarely if ever led to the dismissal of an inept Conveyor.
There are today many issues facing pigeon racing however the most obvious and important is the rapid decline of the sport and the average age of the participants.
If one is supposedly in charge of an organisation then your charter surely is to look for serious problems and issues, look at the cause of them, come up with solutions and then take action to address the issues.
I cannot see any indication that the authorities are even aware of the problem let alone have the intellect to find solutions or the will and energy to take decisive actions to revive our sport. Pigeon Racing needs to be made vibrant and exciting to the fanciers and the general public as it was a few decades ago. Once upon a time results were always published in the Local Press and often bigger races reported in the National Press.
I am not impressed with comments that sport has moved with times with a web site, electronic timing and one loft races. These are adoptions from other countries not creations or initiatives of the UK based authorities and most importantly they do nothing to increase the number of pigeon fanciers participating. In fact I would argue that One Loft races lessen the partication aspect of our sport in that one only has to breed young birds, there is far less husbandry involved and one does not have train the young birds etc.
I would not accept platitudes e.g. young children do not participate in sport anymore they only want to play computer games etc. I would point out that the GB team have won more Olympic Medals than ever in the last decade. Sports like swimming and cycling have had a resurgence athletes have been persuaded to drag themselves to pools and rinks in the early hours of the morning, twelve months of the year to train. Handicapped people have made fantastic strides and been encouraged to put in thousands of hours or effort to participate in sports. Some sports have been winners and gained participants others have been losers and lost ground I suspect that the biggest loser has been Pigeon Racing. We have seen sports have a roller coaster e.g. snooker and darts seem to be popular and wane, others like tennis and cricket struggle to keep their participants. The authorities in charge of these sports all have one thing in common they are aware of the problem of keeping the public participating, they are determined to do something about it and increase the number of people getting involve, they have plans and actions in place to increase their popularity.
I cannot see anything like this happening with Pigeon Racing, sadly if nothing is done within a decade there will be no sport to legislate or govern.
The other sadness is that the Racing Pigeon Fraternity are a generous group, they support a large number of Charities throughout the UK and I am sure they would gladly support the cost of a loft and birds for local schools or community projects. I am sure that manufacturers would also look favourable at the idea of supporting the number of fanciers participating in the sport. The missing link is the Sports Authorities not realising the issue and managing projects to increase participation in Pigeon Racing by making it more interesting and attractive to a bigger audience and making it simple for them to get involved.
To throw a pebble in the pond here are a few ideas
For the Young – Sponsor some lofts and Birds in Schools
Integrate with subject lessons e.g. Maths calculating Velocities, Animal Husbandry, Diets, Veterinary, Geography, Biology etc
For the Not So Young – Middle Age persons with time and funds giving up physically active sports and looking for a new challenge. Early retirees with time and looking for something to keep them occupied and a social community
For the Disabled – With very little change most lofts could be adapted to cater for the disabled to compete as fanciers on equal terms
Therapy and Mental Support – Pigeons can be very calming and provide a very useful distraction for persons undergoing stress.
Local Community Lofts – to lesson the cost of entry into the sport for all age groups e.g. if you wish to be a swimmer you do not need to own a swimming pool or to be a golfer you do not need to buy a golf club.. So why not have local community loft where the cost and work is spread over all the participants. Then Fanciers can set up on their own or in a smaller partnership when thye have some experience, enthusiasm and the funds to partake.
I have no idea if any of the above suggestions would ‘fly’ but I would welcome your views on the topic. I do know that our great sport is rapidly dying on its feet and I can see no initiatives by the sports authorities to address this most important issue.