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Crufts Chairman steps down

ERIC SMETHURST, the well known Chairman of Crufts, has decided to step down from all his positions at the Kennel Club.

It has been known for some time that Eric was due to ‘retire’ under the 75 years rule in October of this year, but this move will perhaps come as a surprise to many.

Photo: David Paton
Eric Smethurst and his wife, Louise, pictured at this year’s Crufts

In a statement issued by the Kennel Club last Friday, members and dog people around were world were told: ‘ It is with sadness that the Kennel Club has announced that Eric Smethurst has taken the decision to step down from all of his current committee positions earlier than expected, for personal reasons.

‘Eric has decided to relinquish his position as Crufts Chairman and Chairman of the Young Kennel Club, and also his seats on the Kennel Club General Committee and the Finance & General Purposes Committee. He would have been due to retire from the F&GP and Crufts Committees later this year. He will, of course, remain a Member of the Club.’

Eric became a Member of the Kennel Club in 1980 and began his committee career seven years later when he was elected to the General Committee and Crufts Committee. He then joined the Finance & General Purposes Committee in 1991 and became involved in what was then the Kennel Club Junior Organisation in the same year.

Following a break in the mid-1990s to concentrate on his business commitments, Eric was re-elected to the General Committee in 1997 and the Finance & General Purposes Committee a year later and remained so until his decision to step down.

Photo: Vince Hogan
Eric Smethurst, KC Chief Executive Rosemary Smart and Kennel Club Chairman Ronnie Irving, pictured at a recent Crufts,

Eric rejoined the Crufts Committee in 2004 and subsequently stepped into the breach as Acting Chairman due to the then Chairman Terry Thorn’s ill health. He was elected Chairman in his own right in 2007 and was in post for two Crufts Shows including this year’s extremely successful event in March.

Eric has also left a great mark on the dog enthusiasts of tomorrow through his work with the Kennel Club Junior Organisation/Young Kennel Club. During his first tenure with the organisation, he came up with the idea of the annual training camp, which remains extremely popular to this day. In his second spell as Chairman, he oversaw the name change to the Young Kennel Club and was responsible for its transformation from a regional to a national structure.


Ronnie Irving, Chairman of the Kennel Club, paid tribute to Eric’s work, saying: ‘We are extremely sorry that Eric has made this decision, as it has been a real pleasure to work with him over a number of years. He has made a truly significant contribution to many areas of the Kennel Club’s work during his time here, and has served the various committees he has sat on with great distinction.

“Eric has given us a legacy of ideas which will last for many years to come and his shoes will be difficult to fill. We look forward to his continued presence in the Members Rooms at Clarges Street and hope that he will continue to share his thoughts and ideas with us for the benefit of dogs and dog lovers everywhere.”

Eric’s departure sparked a number of rumours in the world of dogs and although there are some indications of a difference of opinion on the role and future of the Crufts committee, the rumour factory appears to be in unnecessary overdrive.

Eric remained in ‘no comment’ mode when OUR DOGS spoke to him earlier this week, perhaps employing many of the skills learned during his successful period as Breeder Manager of Pedigree Petfoods many years ago. Eric intimated that the timing was entirely appropriate following the successful Crufts show of 2009 and running the full course through to October would achieve nothing. It is felt that Eric’s view was to allow the ‘new man’ to find his feet without the past Chairman looking over his shoulder, something that also happened when Eric stood down as Chairman of The National, leaving incumbent Mr Martin Wyles, to get on with the job. It is Eric’s style.

There will no doubt be speculation as to who will succeed Eric as Chairman of Crufts, with Gerald Kings’ name well and truly in the hat. It is also a time when there will be enforced changes on the General Committee, not only with Eric’s departure, but also Bill King (personal reasons), Ann Arch (75 year rule), Terry Thorn of course passed away, and in 2010 the Vice Chairman of the Kennel Club Bill Hardaway also stands down under the 75 year rule.

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