Championship cancellation details and details of other European meetings ...

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Can an organisation be too successful for its own good?

This thought is prompted by the announcement that the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling (IFCW) has cancelled the European Youth Wrestling Championships which were supposed to take place during Easter.

Originally the championship was to take place in Leeuwarden in the Friesian area of the Netherlands, but Herman Split, the organiser, was working more or less on his own, and had to withdraw the offer. No country has taken up the option, so with Easter only weeks away cancellation was inevitable.

Our wrestlers were part of the initial formation of the IFCW in 1985, and we have played an active part every year since then. The first championships, held in Lorient, Brittany, had only four participating countries: Brittany, England, Iceland and Scotland. Each of these countries took its turn as host of the annual event, and new countries, Holland, The Canary Islands, and Sweden joined in. By 1991 the expense of staging the event became such that the European Championships became biennial.

Ireland, Sardinia, Leon in Northern Spain, and Austria have since joined forces, so potentially eleven nations take part.

Hospitality was cheap and cheerful at first, but standards of accommodation rose year by year. When Carlisle hosted the event in 1989, the wrestlers stayed at a Youth Hostel. Ten years later the wrestlers all had modern individual rooms and the total cost was in excess of £12,000.

For the Spaniards this was no problem, for in 1997 their regional government had given £20,000 in a single grant to stage the Championships. The Bretons, too, could cope, for they have a much bigger organisation with full time officials, and there is a tradition of Town Festivals which could be tapped into for a venue and the all-important hospitality.

Last year the Scots were supposed to be staging the European Championships, but could not find funding, so at short notice, the town of Landerneau in Brittany took on the task admirably. The reality of the situation is that ten countries are happy to take part, but only two or three have the capacity to stage the event. As a smaller participant we have sought not take our fair share, but the 1999 Championships was a major and time-consuming task. Not for us an easy single grant to cover all expenses; we had more than sixty sponsors.

The Espoirs (Youth) Championships has followed a similar pattern. Introduced as a low-key, cheaper event alternating every two years with the senior championships, it now has grown into a major prestigious event with bigger teams, and attached to it also are the European Women's Championship, so the lesser wrestling organisations are unable to cope with the cost.

Two of our best young coaches are keen for the Espoirs Championships to take place this year. David Atkinson and Andrew Carlile have both reached the highest honours in the international scene and want to pass on their experience and skills, particularly in the Breton style. At present we have a vintage crop of young wrestlers between the ages of 16 and 21, who would do well in any wrestling company, so there is an extra incentive to take part.

The Easter cancellation does not mean that all hope is lost for this year. The way is now open for any country to stage the event at a time of its own choosing, and The President of the IFCW, Jean Francois Hubert, has indicated that a move back to a cheaper more Spartan regime might be the answer.

On March 19th Carhaix in Brittany hosts the Breton Backhold Wrestling Championships. Officials from various countries will be present so perhaps some compromise arrangement may allow this year's Espoirs Championships to take place and our youngster to shine on an international stage.

(Roger Robson is Author of the book 'Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling' published by Bookcase 1999 )

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (February 10th 2011)

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