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KC voluntary code is better than strict regulation
- show of strength continues on ‘aggressive marketing’

The regulations change passed last June by the Kennel Club General Committee with reference to entries in the Pedigree Stakes’ classes was a spirited response to the challenges Pedigree had received from aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns by other large manufacturers.

From mid June if an exhibitor had a formal contract with another food manufacturer, they could not enter Pedigree’s stakes’ classes at championship shows. The new rules were clear enough although the company, quite rightly had the good grace to honour existing qualifiers from the first half of 2005.

Last week we saw an extension of this with an agreed voluntary code between the ‘big six’ food manufacturers involved in show scene sponsorship.

There is little doubt that sponsorship is here to stay. Pedigree support of shows (excluding Crufts) must cost it upwards of £2m per year. In the 35 years since Pedigree really began to work with the world of dogs in the UK, its breeder service and its elite and dedicated sales force has maintained important links with successful exhibitors and has been a model for other countries and other companies to follow. Their success and strength was demonstrated by this change in the show regulations.

The subject of ‘contractual sponsorship’ has had its benefits in recent years and has tempted many successful breeders, exhibitors and judges. They are not only offered food at advantageous rates but in many cases companies also take care of ‘breeder advertising’ in much the same way as some food companies on the continent offer branded adverts and heavily branded business cards. Overseas‚ travel for some group and best in show winners was also a major attraction.

OUR DOGS expressed concern last year that this natural commercial competition had overspilled onto the showground. ‘Contracted’ exhibitors should only be allowed to serve one master. It was said at the time that those who until now have been able to hunt with the hounds and run with the hare will have to make a choice.

Over eight months ago the Kennel Club announced a review of the sponsorship of individuals by companies. What we now have is a consensus and an agreed voluntary code of conduct between six of the UK’s leading pet food manufacturers, which are actively involved in the sponsorship of dog shows, regarding the effect of such sponsorship on Kennel Club licensed shows.

Last week the KC press release said:

‘Following discussions with the Kennel Club Chairman, Ronnie Irving, and Chief Executive, Rosemary Smart, the Managing Directors of Pedigree Masterfoods, Nestle Purina, Iams, Royal Canin, Arden Grange and Hills have agreed the code of conduct which is aimed at protecting the integrity of shows.

‘The Kennel Club is concerned with the effect that sponsorship has had on other sports, particularly with regard to fragmentation of competition and over-commercialism. The Kennel Club is determined that this should not happen in the world of dogs and that all participants should be able to benefit from the generosity of pet food manufacturers in a broad sense.

‘To address these concerns, the Kennel Club has sought to achieve an agreement on a code of conduct regarding the sponsorship of participants at shows, which has now been adopted by the six manufacturers listed above.

‘This code will be further communicated to other pet food companies through the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.

‘The voluntary code of conduct agreed is as follows:

‘1. To stop arrangements which contain continuing obligations on the part of a breeder/exhibitor/handler to endorse a product by requiring exclusive feeding claims and/or exclusivity on the use of photographs.

‘2. To avoid any monetary payments being made to individuals.

‘3. To stop aggressive recruiting of potential product endorsers at shows and events.

‘4. To advise against the wearing of branded clothing by exhibitors in the ring/at events.

‘5. To advise against the wearing of branded clothing by judges when officiating at a show or event.

‘Furthermore, in respect of Crufts, it has been agreed by all sponsoring pet food manufacturers that no direct approaches will be made to exhibitors or competitors to solicit sponsorship contracts. The Kennel Club believes that this will make the experience of Crufts and other shows more enjoyable for exhibitors and in particular for Best of Breed winners.’

On the face of it the decision to agreed the code came just in time. What will be interesting will be its interpretation and implementation in the coming months and at the big show itself.