Dog World, September 2011

Hopefully you all read and enjoyed Frank Kane and Mike Tempest’s contributions last week. I’m sure both will elicit a tremendous amount of discussion and debate. In fact, I noticed the Dog World Facebook page had attracted almost 50 comments about the topic of Frank’s piece before the article was even published.

Digressing slightly, personally I applaud the Kennel Club for taking what I hope will be a very strong stance on what is most easily described as Internet trolling. The World Wide Web offers a terrific amount of opportunity for instant communication and provides an ideal research tool. However, chat rooms, discussion boards and sometimes, even websites can rapidly be turned into very nasty environments. The hurt and frustration that can be caused by some remarks is unforgivable and people should always think very carefully about what they post. Frank and Mike both have in-depth experience within the canine world so it will certainly be interesting to follow how matters progress.

The selection of judges and more or less anything connected to judging always appears to draw a lot of comment. Another item often complained about by exhibitors is the spiralling cost of entry fees at championship shows. It’s frequently cited that if open shows can offer rosettes etc with a minimal entry fee, how come the championship show societies can’t do the same?

Perhaps it’s time for exhibitors to sit back and give some thought to the costs and work involved in staging a championship show and how delicately most, if not all championship show societies have to try and balance the books. I believe one or two societies are limited companies but most are member associations or clubs so details of the accounts would be available annually for members to peruse.

Every society is different; some have to pay for tenting whereas others may be able to use a venue with sufficient suitable permanent buildings and facilities. Let’s try to have a look at a general overview of the type of income and expenditure possibly involved though. Naturally, I’m not even going to attempt to include Crufts as that comes into a completely different category all of it’s own!

A major source of income would obviously include entry fees and catalogue sales. Sponsorship will put some more funds into the kitty, as will charges levied against trade stands. Some societies will also gain additional income from gate and/or parking charges. If in a suitable area at the right time of the year and if space is available, some revenue might also be generated from providing space for caravans. I don’t think as a general rule championship show societies have a large membership database but some proceeds can be gained from membership fees. Perhaps this is something the societies could encourage a little more?

I couldn’t manage to come up with many more items that form the foundations to revenue so now let’s see what kind of expenses have to be offset against this.

By far the largest percentage of the income is likely to be eaten up by venue hire. Only a handful of societies have their own ground – but remember these will also face maintenance charges. Venues that have permanent facilities will be levied at a premium; those that are practically a field will require massive tentage and equipment hire.

Ancillary costs such as ground contractors, security and cleaning staff can also add up to a tidy sum. The hire of dozens of toilets has to be included. Imagine the uproar if we had to pay to use the facilities at a show! If you have ever left a show at the very end of the day when the car parks are emptying, you will see an incredible amount of poo bags – exhibitors have diligently picked up after their dogs but seem to feel it’s acceptable to then place the bags under the car and drive off leaving them scattered all around the area. I know as a boarding kennel owner, this type of refuse is treated as chemical waste and a premium is levied against its disposal.

Benching is also a necessary expense. There are often calls for this to be done away with but what would they be replaced with? Would exhibitors have to pay for an allocated amount of space for their cages to be set up on? Would a further charge be made for the space a grooming table would take up? It really is amazing how much paraphernalia some exhibitors require and removing benches would not change this. As I’m at shows from early in the morning, I’ve often seen those arriving early and laying claim to their space at ringside or in the allocated grooming areas. Would all hell break lose if there was just a free for all as everyone fought over an optimum position?

Societies also have to pay licence fees – I don’t actually mean a licence for the serving of alcohol by this although that probably does have to be taken into the equation for most societies! No, I’m referring to the KC licence fees; there is also an additional fee incurred for every exhibit. Catering, veterinary and first aid cover also have to be contracted and paid for. Yet another large expense that is generally unseen is for the various insurances that must be in place. I’m sure we can all appreciate how our own insurances, motor, house buildings and contents etc have soared in recent years – it is no different for public liability and the others insurances which are mandatory requirements for major events.

I hope exhibitors are beginning to get an idea of what a huge chunk of their entry fee is being rapidly eaten up by costs already? Of course, there is also the thorny issue of judges’ expenses and hospitality that I haven’t even touched on yet! Most societies are having to cut these back pretty drastically – particularly as the heydays of extremely generous sponsorship are now long gone. However, even taking these back to basics, judges travelling any distance are surely entitled to accommodation and a reasonable meal? Very few people can afford to undertake appointments in an honorary capacity; it really is just not feasible.

Printing and stationery is another background expense that amounts to a considerable sum. Bank charges as we all know also mount up. Postage accumulates at an alarming rate too. Advertising also has to be paid for. Other unseen expenses like meeting costs and what are frequently token honoraria have also to be taken from income. The work undertaken throughout the year by most officials and committee members is huge and tallies an awful lot of unpaid man-hours. A handful of societies do now employ a secretary, hardly surprising when you fully consider the work involved. I can only think of one society that has employed staff but again its circumstances are out of the ordinary. So at the end of the day, the average £23 entry fee is not likely to be sufficient to cover all the costs involved. I wonder if any enterprising treasurer has broken costs down to a per head or per entry basis? It would certainly be interesting and I would guess might be a bit of an eye opener for many exhibitors. Societies are a non profit making concern and generally have to have a healthy bank balance to ensure it has adequate funds to fall back on should anything disastrous occur. Having typed all this, I can fully understand why there is not much left in the kitty for rosettes etc, something I’m sure societies would love to be able to offer but nowadays literally cannot afford to splash out on as much as they might like.

I’m sure there are countless items I have missed out, so it would be interesting to gain some insight from societies as to how they try to balance the books.