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David Savory – Hon. Field Trial Secretary’s report to the 2020 Annual General Meeting

I submitted the following report to the Hon. Secretary of the Flatcoated Retriever Society on 23 February 2021, for inclusion in the AGM papers to be circulated to members of the Society at the end of March 2021. Before publication, my report was altered without my agreement, but was still issued in my name. I have emailed a statement to the Society’s membership, making them aware of this extraordinary action, and this can be read at the end of my report.

Following receipt of the 2020 AGM papers (on 1st April 2021) the extent of the changes made to my report are now apparent and those parts of my report that were censored are shown in BOLD.

My full report is as follows:

All Members of the Society:

I have to confess that writing a report for a cancelled AGM, concerning a period that started over 2 years ago, reflecting on what went before, knowing what happens next, and at the time of writing there is only three weeks until I cease to be the Society’s Field Trial Secretary, is a somewhat peculiar and perhaps unique situation.

As we all know, the period from March 2020 until the present day, has seen our lives dominated by the pandemic, so whilst the 2019 season was a normal and in many ways a very successful year for the working side of the breed, what followed was far from normal. Alongside everything from March 2020 being cancelled, various events unfolded that could not have been predicted or anticipated. 

The most notable in my opinion was the uncharitable behaviour and misleading statements (largely via social media) of a few Society members towards myself and representatives of the Field Trial Sub-Committee concerning a document (the “Discussion Document”) sent to the Kennel Club in March 2020, and the origins and role of the workingflatcoats.org website. It is regrettable that there have been no firm rebuttals and too few corrections by the Society to the often entirely false allegations or conspiracy theories that continue, even now, to be perpetuated. I shall return to this at the end of this report.

The main events of the 2019 season were the Inter-Area Team competition which took place at Packington Hall, Meriden on 10 August 2019. Twelve teams were in the running (which I am sure was a record for this event), and which caused some logistical challenges and the deployment of a very large team of helpers, too numerous to list here, but whom are worthy of one final big thank you for making the day such a success.

The 176th Society Open Field Trial was held at Bretby Shoot, Burton-upon-Trent on 24th October 2019, with the 1st place honours going to Ms Linda Vågberg handling Skeppartops Enjoy the Freedom, and second place awarded to Mrs Hilary Rosser handling Mahinda Pompoko. Once again many thanks to all those who turned out to help run the day.

The 177th Society Novice Field Trial at Fretwell Shoot, Beckingham on 7 December 2019 was cancelled due to insufficient entries. This is not the first trial that I have had to cancel because of a lack of entries and no doubt it will not be the last.

A successful FCRS Shooting Dog Certificate Day was held at Fretwell Shoot, Beckingham on 19 October 2019, with 5 “A” Certificates being awarded and one “B” Certificate. Two dogs also received their KC Show Gundog Working Certificates.

There are two other events that took place in 2019 which should also be mentioned and in which I was only there as a competitor! On 25/26 May 2019 a joint show and work weekend was organised by the Egginton and Davis families at Astwood Bank, Near Redditch, Worcestershire. Teams of 4 dogs and handlers competed in a working test on Saturday and a show match on Sunday, combined with a social weekend with camping on site and a bbq on the Saturday evening.  An excellent event and something I sincerely hope will be repeated.

On 29 September 2019, Heather Harley organised a KC Working Gundog Certificate event (on dummies), which was I think a new event for the Society and proved a useful tester for novice handlers. This was in addition to a number of training days that Heather had organised during the year (alongside her Treasurer duties).

On training, the number of training days and events run during the period are too numerous to mention here, but were organised across the Area Working Test representatives and FT Sub-Committee members, and despite comments to the contrary, regularly involved professional trainers and mixed retriever breeds. The latter part of the year saw the roll out of a “Back to Basics” training programme organised through Phil Bruton, with over 30 Flatcoat handlers taking part, and progressing onto more advanced training including on live game. Hopefully it will be possible to continue with this programme once restrictions ease.

I want to finish this report with a few brief words about the “Discussion Document” and the workingflatcoats.org website, and in the hope that I can set the record straight. The “Discussion Document”  was the product of deliberations within the Field Trial Sub-Committee (and not me alone as has been alleged) during the latter part of 2019. The document was approved for submission to the KC Field Trial Liaison Council by a significant majority of the Sub-Committee, and was subsequently discussed at the Society’s General Committee meeting held in February 2020.  No objections to its submission to the Kennel Club were raised by anyone present and the Discussion Document” was therefore submitted by me (as Secretary) to the Kennel Club via the Society’s KC Field Trial Liaison Council representative in March 2020. 

When published as part of the KC Field Trial Liaison Council meeting agenda in May 2020, two Society members wrote to the Society Chairman claiming that the “Discussion Document” would lead to the loss of the Society’s Open status (the ability to run “Open” qualifying field trials) and as a consequence the Flatcoat breed would be demoted to “Minor Breed” status. Based on these two representations alone, the Chairman, without the approval of General Committee, had a letter sent to the Kennel Club withdrawing the “Discussion Document” from the KC Field Trial Liaison Council meeting agenda.

But there was a problem: based on advice obtained from the Kennel Club, the claims made by the two members, and subsequently repeated by others, were without any foundation; in summary the Kennel Club has never removed “Open” field trial status from a Breed or Field Trial Society for any reason, and they do not (and apparently never have) recognise the term “Minor Breed”. It might be of interest to Members that some of those who have been active in promoting these claims against the “Discussion Document” are now standing for election to the Society’s General Committee.

At the same meeting in February 2020, the workingflatcoats.org website was demonstrated by me to General Committee, just as it had been to the Field Trial Sub-Committee a little earlier. The site had been developed and funded by me personally (the cost was about £1000.00) to support the increasing activities of the working side of the breed. Password access to the Society’s website www.flatcoated-retriever-society.org had been repeatedly denied and when eventually changes to that site were agreed it became clear that they could not be delivered fully or within an acceptable timeframe. The other objective of the workingflatcoats.org site was to demonstrate what is possible with a modern website platform (the Society site was built about 20 years ago and technology has obviously moved on). With no objections from General Committee and what I took as their full support, the workingflatcoats.org website went live shortly after the meeting. Events have conspired that a possible plan to merge the two sites at some future date will not now happen and I retain ownership of the site which will be independent of the Society.

For anyone who wants to read it, the “Discussion Document” remains available on the workingflatcoats.org website. My real hope was that the “document” would start a mature discussion about the status of today’s Flatcoated Retriever in the Kennel Club’s Field Trial system, a conversation which I and some others feel is long overdue.

To conclude what could well be my last report to the Society’s membership, I want to repeat the objective that I set out very early on in my tenure; to encourage more people to work their Flatcoats, and for those that do to work them to the highest possible standard. I believe that with all the help given by very many, we have made some progress but there will always be more to do, and I hope that I will be able to continue to make a small contribution to that progress in the future.

David Savory

Hon. Field Trial Secretary

Ends

The following was sent as an email to the Membership of the Flatcoated Retriever Society on 31 March 2021:

Like me, you will shortly be receiving the papers for the 2020 AGM.  Under normal circumstances this AGM would have taken place 12 months ago, and the 2021 AGM would have happened last weekend. But of course there is very little that is normal at the moment.

The 2020 AGM papers that are about to arrive with you will include the Officer’s reports because there was no actual AGM at which they could be presented. Normally these reports, which are to the membership, are confidential until delivered by the author. But as I have said, things at the moment are not normal.

I have spent some of the past 12 months trying to persuade members of General Committee to publish a correction to misleading information posted on social media regarding a document sent to the Kennel Club in March 2020. Each of my requests has been denied, despite the misleading commentary and some offensive remarks remaining in circulation. I therefore decided to use my AGM report to set the record straight.

Regrettably, some members of the Society’s General Committee decided to change my report without my consent, but to still publish it under my name. I don’t know exactly what has been changed because I didn’t see what was sent to the printers, but suspect that a large part of it has been deleted. If you want to read my full report, and not the censored version, just follow the link.

This will be the final email from me via this platform as my term as the Society’s Field Trial Secretary ends today and I shall no longer have access to your contact details via this platform. I will however continue to support the working side of the breed through the workingflatcoats.org website and some initiatives being developed. If you would like to stay in contact you can sign up for emails, and of course opt out at any time.

In my role as Field Trial Secretary I only had one aim, to encourage more people to work their Flatcoats, and for those that do, to work them to the highest possible standard. With very many others we have made some progress and hopefully that will continue. As a member of General Committee, I wanted to try to move the Society into the 21st century, but that has proven rather more challenging!

Finally, I want to thank all those who have turned out to support, offer advice, participate, encourage and particularly to get involved with the many activities we have taken on together during my term. I hope we can keep in touch.

Thank you.

David Savory

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