January 1987

It would, appear that the last bastion of the great British tradition of amateurism is to be found in our caving areas. All around us commercial pressures and slick professionalism are advancing in virtually every other sphere of recreational and leisure pursuit. It is an endearing feature of cavers (probably the only one) that they have steadfastly resisted such influences in their sport over the years. Unfortunately, this tradition of spurning bureaucracy and organisation nay now lead to very real threats to cavers' interests.

The recent fiasco on Mendip which led to virtually all the major caves being closed to cavers highlighted the need for a more professional approach in safeguarding the interests of cavers. This is not. to criticise those involved in the delicate negotiations with the landowners and the Nature Conservancy Council but surely the time has cone when we must seriously rethink the structure of caving in this country, so that those involved in handling matters of national and regional importance to cavers can do so secure in the knowledge that they are truly representing those cavers, and not just the caving politicians.

Caving Clubs in Britain have always jealousy guarded their independence. This is all very fine, and few in caving would argue against it. However, it surely would not be asking too great .1 sacrifice if Clubs were to come together in some sort of federation which could speak with one voice on the major issues, and which would be accorded the respect due to it from other agencies, especially Government, as the true national body for caving. Most other sports have such a national body ("governing body" might not yet be an acceptable term to most cavers), and none seems to be any the worse for it.

In a federal structure, all Clubs could have an equal voice through properly established democratic machinery. Additionally, if federated Clubs were each to levy a certain sun (say £1) on top of their own membership subscriptions, it might be- possible to finance the setting up of full-time professional administration. A full-tine administrator would be available to act as spokesman on saving issues, to negotiate with other "agencies on natters of access, funding, etc., and to take over the running of specialist services for cavers, such as insurance The administrator would be responsible to the Clubs, not to the regional councils which are often seen as remote and out of touch with grassroots cavers.

Other national organisations in caring such as B.C.R.A. could, if such a structure were adopted get back to concentrating on those matters which they were set up to deal with, rather than getting bogged down in deploying their limited resources to administrative affairs.

Paul Selby