NFYFC said county clubs must now work together to deliver change on ‘some of the societal issues around drinking that are impacting on our own organisation’.
Young Farmers have reacted with anger and sadness after the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (NFYFC) pulled the plug on its flagship annual event without consulting grass roots members.
NFYFC said while it understood members’ disappointment, county clubs must now work together to deliver change on ‘some of the societal issues around drinking that are impacting on our own organisation’.
While the Federation reiterated it was not a reactive decision to the issues of anti-social behaviour reported at this year’s annual convention, it implied the decision had been made after ‘spending the last three years clearly highlighting the potential of reputational damage and the need to modify behaviour’.
NFYFC’s chief officer James Eckley said: “The party in the town, and the growing number of incidents of anti-social behaviour, are increasingly difficult for NFYFC to manage while running its own event.
“NFYFC has repeatedly tried to tackle these issues over the last few years at club and county level, with presentations on behaviour, creating group leader roles for convention and removing members – where they can be identified – who have gone against the code of conduct.
“The number of arrests in 2018 was low, but the number of complaints from members of the public was extremely high – creating a generally negative impression of YFC and the work it does.”
This was further exacerbated by the fact the more serious elements of the weekend, such as agricultural debates and national competition finals, were often shunned by members in favour of socialising outside the main venue.
Fewer than half the members who attend the convention support the official events and is why the location and format need a ’complete rethink’, Mr Eckley added.
YFC chairmen who spoke to Farmers Guardian said the national committee had ‘missed a trick’ by cancelling the convention and it was likely a new, grassroots-led event would take place, albeit in a less regulated environment.
Others said NFYFC had been ‘very short-sighted’ and was ‘no longer an organisation run by the members, for the members’.
NFYFC made the decision at the Board of Management’s July meeting after council members were tasked to gather feedback on how their counties could address behavioural issues.
The scale of the problem was so huge it would have been impossible to give every member a complete understanding, it added.
“The original focus of the Board’s decision was about the 2019 event but, after much scrutiny, it was felt it would be impossible to hold the event again in its current format – and there were insurmountable reasons why the 2019 event had to be cancelled,” Mr Eckley said.
It came despite offers to welcome back Young Farmers by both Blackpool Council and the Mayor of Torbay.
Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “If, at some point in the future, the Federation can come up with a formula for an event that is aligned both to their own values and to our status as a family resort, we will be very happy to discuss ways in which we can make this happen.”
Torbay’s Elected Mayor Gordon Oliver said: “We have always worked well with the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) and we would welcome the Young Farmers back at any time.”
Thousands of YFC members have already taken steps to organise a new event in Blackpool next year, with suggestions to each give at least £10 to both a national and local charities.
John Houseman of Yorkshire YFC initiated the social media event which has so far attracted interest from 7,000 individuals.
Charities so far include the likes of National Air Ambulance, Mind and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), with RNLI Blackpool Lifeboat Station and homeless charity Helping Hand.
Writing on the National AGM Blackpool: DIY group, Mr Houseman said: “Obviously this is not an official YFC event so everyone who attends is responsible for their own actions.
“This is a good chance to show NFYFC what a horrendous decision they have made.”
The group has been offered accommodation from dozens of local hotels, bars and local DJs.
NFYFC, however, said it would not be affiliated with any such event, with warnings ‘anyone who brings the YFC name into disrepute will be removed from the federation’.
Bracing itself with a financial deficit, NFYFC will consult on a new range of events as part of its five-year plan ’Vision: 2023’.
The Federation, which gained charitable status in 2017, makes about £144,000 on average from the convention each year.
For 2019, the Board has agreed to use NFYFC’s reserves to cover the shortfall and allow the organisation time to put new plans in place.
It called on its young people to offer ‘fresh and up-to-date’ ideas for the type of events they would like to be part of.