KC AGM looks at membership model; Crufts fees to rise


A RISE in Crufts entry fees, changes to the show’s layout, the absence of the UK representative in the Eukanuba World Challenge, removal of the club’s 1,500 membership maximum and the likelihood of more directives governing German Shepherds were all topics raised at the Kennel Club’s annual meeting on Tuesday.

Curzon Street Cinema was fairly full – particularly considering that this year there appeared to be no contentious agenda items to debate nor any proposals which, as in recent years, have grabbed the headlines.

Crufts changes

The entry fee to Crufts is to rise to £30 for breed classes and £20 for other activities, revealed the show’s chairman Gerald King. Crufts is – and must remain – ‘the world’s largest dog show and the biggest and best celebration of healthy, happy dogs’, he told members, but good quality and meaningful sponsorship was needed to maintain high standards.

“Crufts cannot rely on sponsorship to continually run a world-class event,” he said. “And as some of you may or may not know sponsorship is getting harder. We’ve seen the Chelsea Flower Show lose a number of key sponsors this year… and we lost Samsung after more than 25 years.

“It costs more than £3m to run Crufts and we have an obligation to at least cover our costs going forward. With this in mind we have taken the decision to increase the entry fees for all breed and activity competitions for 2018 where competitors have to qualify and are not invited to compete.”

Another major change is that the show will no longer be able to use the Pavilion for benching – Mr King explained later that it had been sold to a company which intends to create a games and activities centre for children and adults. The Pavilion provides benching for 470 dogs but there is only room for 302 around the Arena, meaning a loss of nearly 170 benches.

“This will result in changes having to be made to the layout so we can still hold the same number of events in the Arena,” he said. “This means we will endeavour to continue with the Breeders Competition for 2018 but will have to restrict the number of teams competing.”

This year’s show had been a great success, Mr King said, attracting 26,500 dogs and an overall entry of nearly 22,000 dogs – 3,469 from overseas from 55 countries, an increase of two per cent, Mr King said. A number of senior members from foreign kennel clubs attended including FCI president Rafael de Santiago showing, yet again, he said, Crufts was truly international.

There was a record attendance of 162,065 visitors but some criticism as a result – ‘particularly on Saturday, which we will address in the future’. Mr King told DOG WORLD later that this had been due to the number of people in the halls and the difficulty experienced by those taking part in the Breeders Competition in getting to the Arena.

There was increased TV coverage of 11 hours with a cumulative peak of 10.3m viewers – 36 per cent up on previous years with 2.7m watching best in show. A total of 357,940 hours was watched on YouTube.

Press coverage had been positive and plentiful, Mr King said, with two per cent of it being negative – mainly regarding brachycephalic breeds, dogs being held on tight leads and the disapproval of an American Cocker representing the gundog group and becoming best in show.

During his speech, Crufts chairman Gerald King talked of the Challenge, which was staged at Crufts this year, saying the event had highlighted the magnificence of pedigree dogs.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to have the entire dog world in one place celebrating the most successful and well-known dog show in the world – Crufts – and at the same time hosting the distinctive World Challenge,” he said. “It also enhanced the partnership the KC has with Eukanuba, supported by the FCI.”

But Jean Lanning queried why the UK’s representative, Sara Robertson and Wendy Doherty’s Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Ch Soletrader Magic Mike, had not taken part.

“It was a great disappointment,” she said. “An announcement was made that a dog had dropped out of the competition – no name was given nor the country it represented.

“One immediately felt concerned for the dog’s welfare, as it must have become ill.”

However, Miss Lanning continued, Mike, who had won best of breed, appeared in the group ring appearing to be ‘very fit and happy’.

“What is the truth behind the mystery?” she asked “I feel our country was badly let down in this competition as we had an understudy dog who could have acted as replacement if it had been given notice.”

Mr King said Mike’s owner had been concerned that he might be too tired to compete in the group and ‘for the welfare of the dog’ had decided to withdraw it.

“It was an embarrassment,” he said. “But there was nothing we could do about it.”

Property updates

KC chairman Simon Luxmoore reported on the KC’s activities since last year’s AGM and gave updates on property matters. The new Aylesbury office has been built and delivered on time – the day before the meeting – by the contractors. The building will now be fitted out ahead of staff moving in by the end of September. The KC has arranged to surrender its lease on the old building and will have to give a month’s notice.

The club’s planned maintenance programme for its Northumberland estate, Emblehope and Burngrange, is moving forward, Mr Luxmoore said, and new gamekeeper Raymond Holt and his wife Anne have moved in to the cottage there. Work has started in preparation for the shooting season which starts on September 1 and bookings from clubs interested in taking days there can now be made. A successful championship Bloodhound trial had been held in February, the chairman added.

At November’s special meeting members agreed to the purchase of a site at Chepstow Racecourse, entering into a joint venture with Northern Racing to build an activities centre. Mr Luxmoore said the KC’s ‘due diligence programme’ was coming to an end and the Board was awaiting final reports from advisors ‘in order to move forward with the project’.

Also as agreed by members at the SGM, several changes had been made to the KC’s governance. The three new business committees were up and running – Finance, Audit and Risk, and Performance and Remuneration. A working party is being set up to look at the governance of the sporting side of the club’s activities, Mr Luxmoore said, beginning with the work of the Activities, Field Trials and Show Executive Committees.

Another new group formed is the Election Panel which will meet potential members of the KC not very well known to the Board 'or as the Board sees fit'. This panel will comprise current members of the Club Committee as well as former Board members. 

"Any objections received regarding candidates will be reviewed by the Panel and a recommendation made to the Board,” the chairman said. "It is intended that this should shorten the process of becoming a member which is currently taking nine-12 months and in some cases even longer."

The KC was reassessed by Investors in People recently, for the fourth time, and passed ‘with flying colours’, Mr Luxmoore said.

Judges framework

He then moved to the new Judges Competency Framework

"The new system deals with the education, approval and listing of every level of judge, from those who aspire to judge, right through to open show judges and those who go on to award CC and judge championship show groups, and best in show. The new framework will be launched in January 2019, run alongside the current system for a three-year transition period, and be fully operational from January 2022.

“This education will involve mentoring and ringside observation by breed experts and be supported by a network of breed education co-ordinators who will help facilitate learning."

For some time now, Mr Luxmoore said, the KC had indicated that the way judges were educated needed to change.

"It is generally accepted that change is necessary due to a range of deficiencies in the current process – problems for show societies identifying available and competent judges, open shows being poorly supported and lack of seminar opportunities and transparency in the approval processes. 

"The new system will promote efficiency while at the same time encouraging quality learning – based not on the number of dogs judged but on the judge demonstrating their competency to their peers. We believe that this has to be very good news indeed for anyone who wishes either to become a dog judge or to progress further up the judging ladder."

After a brief summary of the new FCI/KC agreement for the mutual recognition of judges – which was signed by both parties at Crufts – Mr Luxmoore moved to German Shepherds. The KC’s review group’s consideration of the matter had resulted in directives being imposed relating to the exhibition and judging of the breed and field officers had been observing at shows.

"One of the directives was that all CC judging contracts were suspended until such time as the judge had undergone an education programme,” he said. "In March we announced that the education would take the form of a film and multiple choice exam on the (online) KC Academy. The education is available free of charge, and anyone with an interest can view the film and take the exam. 

German Shepherds

"There are also a number of other issues relating to GSDs which the Board has been considering since April of last year. However, all of these are interlinked and a decision in one area could very well have unintended consequences for the other issues under consideration. Hence the Board is not unreasonably taking its time to reach its conclusions.”

Issues facing the breed need to be addressed sensibly, Mr Luxmoore said, ‘to achieve the long-term aim of improvement in the breed with no risk of subsequent deterioration.

"And we are determined to work with the GSD community as a whole to ensure that this happens."

A congress of kennel clubs will be hosted by the KC next month and arrangements are progressing well. A large contingent of delegates from all over the world were expected – currently more than 25 countries are sending representatives ‘making it the most diverse meeting the KC has held for many years’.

Membership model

Then Mr Luxmoore moved to other item, possible changes to the club’s membership model. Currently the KC had 1,374 paying members, of whom 1,279 are ordinary members and 95 overseas members. A total of 68 are honorary life members or honorary members. 

Then he turned to the membership model itself, saying that the consultation piece in December’s Kennel Gazette had elicited only 11 responses and that there appeared to be a ‘high level of indifference among members’. But membership of the KC should reflect achievement and contribution to the dog world, he said; there was scope for the membership to be opened further and the Board was seeking members’ agreement towards this end.

Although there was some support for a form of town and country membership there was also some concern that creating different tiers of membership with voting rights may prove to be divisive, he said, particularly with regard to the suggested three-year waiting period which had been proposed. It would also make additional work for the office, costing a greater number of man hours.

So a more straightforward proposal has been suggested:

  • Remove the entry fee requirement but retain the current annual fee of £150. It has been calculated that the current face value of the publications received by members totals £80 per person, although the actual cost of providing these publications to each member is higher. There is the Crufts entry pass benefit on top of this.
  • Remove the limit on the number of members.
  • Keep the current nomination, advertising and election process. Therefore, potential members would still be required to be nominated and seconded by existing members and would continue to be approved by the Board.
  • Introduce a lower household membership fee of £250 per annum, instead of £300 for two people as at present. Each member would still have to be elected individually as at present.

"We felt that the best way to engage with the members on these proposals was to begin with a discussion here at the AGM,” the chairman said. "If there is a general consensus the proposals could be produced formally at a SGM."  

These proposals require further amendments to the Articles of Association (membership numbers/entry fees) and the A rules (entry fee/membership amounts).

Questions were invited and Ron Stewart asked that as the number of overseas members was increasing, should there be separate lists for them and for UK members in case the increase continued and spaces which could go to people living in the UK were taken by those from other countries.

Mr Luxmoore feared that limiting overseas membership could tarnish the high regard in which the KC is held in other countries. He added that many of the overseas members were ex pats.

Ronnie Irving said he was disappointed that the concept of two-tier membership had been discarded through lack of support. When he was KC chairman, he said, there had been a bid to allow members to propose more than two members at a time.

“If the number increased to four you are hardly going to be swamped with carpetbaggers,” he said. 

David Cavill said he did not understand why there had to be a limit on the number of people a member could propose. The KC was responsible for so many activities that they should be represented he thought, and more varied skills brought into the membership. Those involved in activities such as obedience, training, heelwork to music and canicross, for example, should be encouraged. His views were greeted with applause.

David Hutchison said the vast majority of members were show people but when they asked those from other activities if they wanted to become members they did not seem interested. this was disappointing, he thought.

Many people in the dog world do not want to be members as long as they feel they are being listened to, Mr Luxmoore said.

Liz Stannard said the expense of becoming a member put people off, and anyone ‘north of Birmingham’ would rarely use the club’s facilities.

A show of hands indicated members’ support for these plans to be put forward as a proposal at November’s special meeting.