I have been lucky enough to have been asked to sit on panels in the past and there is always one or two in the audience who decry the downfall of Pigeon Racing in the UK. "it will be finished in 10 years" is a very common statement but I always put my hand up to disagree and ask "how many of us race Horses?" to which no one replies. But Horse racing thrives in the UK, due mainly to the gambling industry that follows it. It's big money and here is where I see the future of our sport. There may not be as many Fanciers competing as there was in it's hay day and to be honest I have never suggested that there would be, only a dedicated percentage will be around to take advantage of the future bonanza that lies in store.
When the Electronic Timing System came within the rules of the R.P.R.A. there was an outcry from the establishment and grass roots, because people do not like change, they like to move within their comfort zones and this blindfolded them from the real possibilities E.T.S. can give to our sport. It is now possible to verify our first arrival from National races via the internet and it will not be long before some bright spark connects the E.T.S. directly to their computer so that as a bird crosses the sensor pad, it records on a central computer to let the race unfold before your very eyes.
Imagine the odds you would get on a bird winning in Wales in a West wind National? The fastest velocity of the day? The colour of the fastest bird, the first hen, the first yearling. The list is endless and a cherry thats there for the picking! It is possible now and it will not be too long coming.
Off course there will always be natural wastage in our sport and some very dear friends of mine have passed away to the great loft in the sky. Only this week I was physically rocked by the news of Carlo Napolitino, Loft Manager to the Queen passing away unexpectedly. He was a great ambassador to the sport and in the words of Kipling he could "walk with Kings yet not loose the common touch" I had some great times in his company and I consider myself fortunate having known him. But he is gone now and someone else will pick up the banner on behalf of the Queen, and I have no doubt Pigeon Racing will go on too.
I was also uplifted at the end of this very sad week when I was told Eric Ceulemans from Antwerp was coming to England to deliver some youngsters and experience Pigeon Racing English style this Saturday morning. I asked if I could go along to take some photographs as I always like to be around pigeon fanciers and if I can take my camera that's even better.
So here comes the enlightenment; it's the first time I have met Eric although I have heard a lot about him and more especially his pigeons performances here in the UK. An out and out sprint man, his birds have been here for about 5 years and Alistair Ewart has had some directs for a few years, so after the exchange of the youngsters he had brought with him, Alistair began to show him around his loft. As he passed each bird of Ceuleman origin to Eric he began to recount the history of each one as if he had raced it for 5 years when in reality they had left his loft at three weeks of age. I was struck by his passion and knowledge of sprint pigeons in the Antwerp area and was listening intently when unbeknown to us both Alistair slipped him a different pigeon.
"This is an exceptional pigeon" he proclaimed, "but it not one of my origin". Indeed it wasn't, it was one I had bred for Alistair out of my stock loft and when he was told he said "you must race middle distance and you go to the East Flanders for your pigeons" He had no knowledge of me or this pigeon before the meeting, he just knew the type of bird from that area and the distances they flew best at. Not many of us can do that I know and he is still fairly young too!
You can see more of Eric at this link http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1889193841759.2104744.1598866709&l=3493c5deea