The not good news show
In all sports (ours included) it is the task of those that practise or represent it to promote that sport and a promoter is optimistic.
Though I must admit it is sometimes hard to be positive I do my best.
- When some one loses many babies I try to comfort him and say: 'Cheer up. The chance that there was a super among them is small, since there are few supers.'
- When someone performs poorly I lay a hand on his shoulder and I tell him: 'You may have lost a battle but not the war.'
- When a good bird dies my reaction is: 'Too bad, but after all it is just a pigeon and not one of your beloved ones.'
What I would like to say is that, as long as the misery in our lives is restricted to a hobby only, we should praise the Lord.
But as a writer you also have to bring the news, even if that is bad, and recently the bad news came from KBDB (the Belgian Federation).
They released the figures about the numbers of fanciers and the bands that were sold. It was shocking.
Year Number of fanciers Rings Sold Decline:
1967 137.467 3.429.895
1970 128.372 3.425.264 6,62 %
1975 116.075 3.605.636 9,58 %
1980 105.085 3.876.030 9,47 %
1985 93.179 3.242.115 11,33 %
1990 78.972 3.186.555 15,25 %
2001 50.806 2.261.056 I dare not say
The data about recent years were even more dramatic.
I made 'a jump' from 1990 to 2001 in order not to be too boring, but the story is the same and it is bad, real bad.
Between 1990 and 1999 the number of fanciers went down 3 % per year, but later on it was 6 % or' nearly 18 percent in 3 years' time.
In 1980 1,600.000 more bands were distributed than in 2001.
For a real pigeon man those are distressing and shocking figures indeed.
If so many enjoy this sport immensely, how come it is declining so dramatically one might wonder. I think there are several reasons.
Now many people have, how strange it may seem, too much money.
In the past they could not afford a car or a holiday and consequently they were stuck in their homes and pigeon sport was an ideal spare time then.
Today people do have the money to go on holiday, to the theatre or the discotheque and so on, so those who claim that the sport has become too expensive for the common people are wrong.
Nowadays the sport is flourishing in countries where the standard of living is low.
People got more money indeed but in spite of that they stopped pooling.
Nowadays little money is to be won in the races (selling is another story) and you cannot expect a young man to work hard for the birds a whole year round in order to just win a cup.
I am sure that if more fanciers would have a partner less would quit.
It happens though that fanciers say: 'the hell with championships. I have a wife and family and when the weather is fine I go out with them. Next week there is another race.' Such people will not be champions, since they skip races if they do not feel like participating but they will not quit either.
In some Federations the people in charge are aware of this problem and if there are say 12 races only the best 10 count to win points.
People also quit due to the drugging problems that started in 1995. In fact it was rather stopping the moult artificially by means of cortisone than drugging but a lot of damage was done
'Druggers' that had the money to afford a lawyer could go on racing while 'common people' with no money were expelled for 3 years.
'All animals are equal but one is more equal than the other' it says in 'Animal Farm'. The fact that the big fish that were caught could go and the little ones were punished was so frustrating for some that they quit.
Due to those 'drugging problems' nowadays any fancier that performs extremely well is subject to doubts and again a reason for some to quit.
Others quit due to 'mob fliers'.
This again is frustrating for the workman with little time, little money and no room for big lofts. Why do some race so many birds one may think, as this only costs time and money?
The answer is simple.
Those guys want to sell!
Potential (foreign) buyers read about early prizes but they do not see how many birds fanciers entered. Sly 'sellers' realise this and count on some early (lucky) birds to impress.
But what does an early bird mean?
If you do not see the result sheet you cannot judge how good or bad a performance is. Take National Orleans back in 1996.
My name was published in all magazines, since I won the national.
'He did it again' they wrote, that was true, but the over all result was average. In the press however 'the winner takes it all'.
Finally fanciers quit because of new rules on antibiotics.
Vets must give the fancier a prescription in case birds are sick and with that piece of paper they have to go to a chemist to get the medicine.
This was also reason for vets to quit, as the sale of medicine is the main part of their income.
And as if things are not bad enough both in Belgium and Holland measures were taken to restrict the sport.
They banned long distance races for youngsters, since they were cruel they said.
Also racing in hot weather (30 Celsius or more) became forbidden in Holland. Strangely enough high temperatures never were an issue for the Belgians.
A new rule in Belgium is that long distance races for youngsters are only allowed every 2 weeks.
Since Big Brother (the government) is watching our sport critically to day it meant for the Dutch that the greatest race in the world (National Orleans) became history.
It is the losses of young birds that are responsible for the restrictions we face now.
These losses were hot news and gave the sport a bad image.
People in charge just do not know that healthy youngsters can handle the longer distances easily.
An investigation in Belgium showed that from races further than 400 kilometres only one percent got lost.
Most birds get lost at the first SHORT DISTANCE races (70 to 100 kilometres).
Unfortunately no one knows why babies did not get lost in the past and why losses have become a night mare now.
For the common people it is frustrating that long distance races for old birds, such as from Barcelona from which many birds get lost, are not under attack.
How much times have changed you can see when you ride your bicycle in the beautiful nature in my area.
Once I counted 28 lofts in half an hour time but no less than 24 of them were empty.
There were real old lofts among them in which clearly had been no pigeons for decades, but also pretty new lofts were empty.
How grave the future looks is also shown in a nearby Belgian club.
There were 96 members in 1991, in 2005 only 23 were left.
People died, people quit and no others started.
But the worst is still to come; from those 23 fanciers that were left only 7 were younger than' 65.
In the past daily magazines here had their 'pigeon page' on Monday and in smaller towns everybody could tell you who the good pigeon racers were.
Now the majority of our citizens is not even aware of the existence of our sport.
'We are doomed. When will the last fancier switch off the light?' some complain and after having read the above lines it seems they have reason to be pessimistic.
We should not feel too depressed though.
Sometimes when I hear foreign fanciers talk I am amazed to hear what I hear. Where they race a neighbouring sportsman may live 20 kilometres further or more.
For them the sport here looks like paradise.
As I said there are only 80,000 fanciers left in our small countries near the North Seabut for foreigners this is still an enormous amount.
In big countries such as America or Canada are not even 15,000 fanciers!
And talking about foreign fanciers that live 20 kilometres from one another, if you drive this distance in Belgium you do not only pass many fanciers but many clubs.
In some countries fanciers have to drive 50 kilometres or more to buy the most common things such as feed or baskets.
In my little town (6.000 inhabitants) pigeon products can be bought at 5 places.
No wonder foreigners sometimes say 'for pigeon men it must be paradise to live inHolland or Belgium'.
The news about the development of our sport is bad but we are not lost.
In my town I do not know about one person who is a boxer, a skater, a baseball player, a sailor, a mountain climber and so on.
But within 10 kilometres there are still about 100 fanciers. It used to be over 400 fanciers, that is true, but we still have plenty of chances to practise this nice sport.
For how long?
I do not know. Take me and myself. Some mates call me 'the kid'.
But this kid is in his fifties!
Again: Food for thought.