The 2014 World English Sporting Championships will undoubtedly be heralded as a flagship event by the majority who attended. Targets were presented well, on-site facilities were excellent and the topography of the West Wycombe Estate sumptuous to behold. Whilst competitors needs were realised and met, did the event make the most of the opportunity to showcase our sport to a much wider audience?The “Worlds” as they are affectionately known by shooters and industry personnel alike descended on their combined hosts of E.J. Churchill Shooting Ground and the West Wycombe Estate for the week beginning on Monday 28th April and culminated in the 25 target Super Final from the main event on Sunday 4th May to determine who would be crowned as the 2014 World English Sporting Champion.
Competitors travelled from far and wide, to contest events hosted at both locations throughout the week, with many entering multiple disciplines/competitions to further test their mettle. The atmosphere was befitting of an event of such magnitude and many anxious eyes were fixated on the scoreboard in the main arena waiting for the latest scores from both the Red and the Blue courses to be posted throughout the four day long main event. It was a veritable Disneyland for clay shooters.
Taking a moment to appreciate the enormity of the stage that Rob Fenwick (of E.J. Churchill) and his team had set, it was immediately evident that a tremendous amount of preparation and planning had contributed to the ability to run such an event. In addition, the infrastructure provided necessitated serious investment all of which would be redundant without the correct personnel chosen for specific duties throughout the shooting extravaganza. Each and every member of staff I encountered regardless of their affiliation (primarily EJC or the CPSA) were courteous and literally could not do enough to ensure that questions were answered and everyone got to where they needed to be.
My only critique, of what I otherwise thought was a stand-alone event, was the apparent lack of anyone taking, or indeed making, the opportunity to showcase our sport to the general public. It would be fair to say that both E.J. Churchill and the West Wycombe Estate are fortunate to have affluent catchment areas. The length of the event must have meant that those travelling from reasonable distances contemplated booking local accommodation and would have also frequented the restaurants and other facilities within the area, culminating in quite an influx of income into the region in what would have presumably been an otherwise quiet time of year.
The last time that the Worlds resided in the UK, when it was hosted in the Cotswolds by the Lovatt’s Clay Shooting Company, I distinctly remember an array of accommodation and restaurant options being publicised, many of which came recommend by the hosts. I assume that this list was based off some form of interaction with the hoteliers and restaurateurs and consequently their combined awareness of the event taking place would have been raised. I am not suggesting that this did not happen for this years event, but if it did that fact was under publicised to those who could have potentially benefitted from it.
Imagine the potential outcome if both parties organising this years Worlds has chosen to be more proactive with regards to encouraging the general, not yet shooting, public to attend any of the events that they hosted? Flyers could have been displayed throughout establishments in High Wycombe showcasing the event, inviting spectators to attend and perhaps encouraging the public to have a go at designated “have a go” stands at both venues.
Of course there are both logistical and financial implications to this course of action and clays, cartridges, guns and staff are the minimum requirements to get aid a project of this nature getting off the ground. That said, E.J Churchill have a vested interest in marketing their business to local clientele, so I am sure would have been willing to host and staff these stands. I would also imagine that gun, clay and cartridge manufacturers would struggle to refuse the opportunity to promote their products in such an environment to such a potentially lucrative audience.
The CPSA could also have been having a field day with influx of newcomers to the sport. CPSA themed hand-outs could have been organised detailing list of local grounds, beginners guides to shooting and promotional items that cemented the fact that the wearer had tried clay shooting for the first time and enjoyed it. The gain here is not short term as it is unrealistic to expect members of the public to become fully fledged members of the CPSA on day one, but what is to stop the CPSA from getting themselves organised and establishing a voucher system that can be utilised to grow the sport at grass roots level by allowing the anyone who had taken part in the “have a go” sessions to continue their journey at one of the many CPSA affiliated clubs throughout the country?
On another tack, were the local schools contacted to offer them the chance to come and watch the events unfolding? This could have been piggy backed onto the CPSA Young Shots Program, or involved the likes of David Florent from the Oxford Gun Company or Neil Wilcox from Helena Romanes School and built on the excellent work that they have already undertaken with the next generation of shooters. Current shooters like Amber Hill, Taylor Hedgecock, Ronnie Green, Natasha Lovell and Brody Woollard could have been utilised to go into local schools and talk about their sport, their chosen discipline and their equipment, again facilitating an opportunity to change the publics opinion of shooting in general.
Add to the above the fact that anyone attending either of the venues could of had the chance to browse the trade stands, browse shooting related equipment, pick up copies of shooting related publications (where was the PULL, Clay Shooter or Clay Shooting Magazine stand by the way?) and all of a sudden you have a viable influx of new blood to the sport supporting the growth of both the sport and the industry from the grass roots level up.
We often bemoan the fact that the general public in the UK is wary of shooting related sports and the associated culture, but what do we actively do to change that perspective? In reality I suspect less than we could…