"…The man and his dog then ran alongside the Best Terrier winner and later Reserve Best In Show Wire Fox Terrier and his handler Andrew Goodsall. Fortunately, neither Mr Goodsall nor his dog were distracted by the interlopers… unfortunately neither were the NEC security staff…"
-Nick Mays, OUR DOGS Chief Reporter
"It’s all very well an idiot like that having his ‘bit of fun’, and it’s all very well the NEC saying that there was no harm done – I heard one of their staff say exactly that. But not only does it ruins peoples’ enjoyment of the show, it makes you think about what could have happened. This time, the dog had balloons tied to it. What if it had a bomb tied to it? Would it be ‘no harm done’ then?"
BEST IN Show judging at Crufts was disrupted once again this year when another individual – this time accompanied by a dog – breached the National Exhibition Centre’s security and gained entrance to the main ring.
This is the fourth such breach of security in as many years and it is understood that the Crufts Committee and the Kennel Club are furious that it was allowed to happen, especially as security was supposed to have been stepped up following previous main ring breaches by protesters and so-called models.
As reported previously, this year’s interloper was a middle-aged man in brightly coloured clothing, accompanied by a small terrier crossbreed festooned with balloons. Eyewitnesses – of which there were several including this reporter – saw the man run into the ring from the backstage holding area. The man and his dog then ran alongside the Best Terrier winner - later Reserve Best In Show - Wire Fox Terrier Ch/Am Ch El-Rays Snowtaire Iceni Payback (Imp) and his handler Andrew Goodsall. Fortunately, neither Mr Goodsall nor his dog were distracted by the interlopers… unfortunately neither were the NEC security staff who appeared not to notice the presence of either man or dog until it was pointed out to them by the KC’s Trophy Handler Jason Clarke who moved forward to protect the Best In Show Keddle Trophy and was heard to shout "Behind you, lads!" along with several hundred members of the audience.
Finally, a couple of black shirted professional crowd control staff who had been facing the audience, together with blue jacketed NEX staff and a couple of West Midland police officers bundled the man out of the ring and wrestled him to the ground, whilst many members of the crowd booed and hurled abuse at the sad individual for attempting to disrupt proceedings.
The whole incident was shown on the live BBC television coverage of the show, despite the BBC’s 10-second delay format. To have deleted the footage would have meant that the Terrier winner’s circuit of the ring would have been lost.
Eyewitness Sarah Carey – co-founder of Wiccaweys Border Collie Rescue – was sitting in the main stand and saw the drama and its aftermath unfold.
"He came from the holding ring that the agility dogs had come in from, so he'd got past quite a lot of people," said Ms Carey. "At first nobody seemed to do anything. How on earth can someone with a little terrier crossbreed wearing balloons possibly be able to get through the security and into the BIS ring?
"The first person who reacted was the KC guy looking after the Winners Cup. He rushed up and took it off the stand. I suppose it looked as if the guy could have been heading for the trophy.
The NEC security were entirely oblivious at first. The guard standing in the ring in front of us didn't react at all, even when he turned round to see what was going on. It took a while to sink in.
Maybe it was the crowd shouting, ‘Oi! Behind you! And ‘ Get out of the ring you w----er!’ that gave him a clue!
"It appeared to be the KC folks who reacted first, then the NEC jumped in and escorted the man and the dog out of the main ring, and into the collecting ring next to where we were sitting. "
Ms Carey was critical of the NEC’s belated strong-arm tactics with the man once he had been removed from the ring and the effect it had on the dog: "It then all got a little over the top if you ask me. Two security guards were holding the chap's arms, and it didn't appear as if he was resisting at all. He was standing there with them with a big grin on his face, and holding his dogs lead. He didn't appear to be saying anything either.
"Suddenly the guards started wrestling him to the ground and the police dived in as well to handcuff him. He was still holding his dog’s lead at this point and the poor little soul was getting dragged into the melee and I saw the dog get kicked - accidentally I add - more than once by the security staff and police. I was shouting ‘watch out for the dog - someone get the dog!’
"Others in the holding ring were just standing watching. The dog finally got loose from the man and out of the ruckus. Again I shouted ‘Someone get hold of the little dog’. He was obviously very frightened and confused by it all."
Eventually, a veterinary nurse took the initiative and rushed over and picked him up and gave him a cuddle. The man was frogmarched out of the holding ring, and another vet nurse and vet appeared and examined the little dog.
Ms Carey continues: "He appeared to be okay from where I was sitting, just a little shook up and shocked. The man didn't seem to ask once about the welfare of his dog.
"My friend Pauline and I approached the vet and vet nurse after BIS to ask after the little dog, and left them a card in case he did need the help of a rescue at a later date The man was sitting in handcuffs in one of the dog benches outside the main ring, flanked by policeman.
"I couldn't make out if he had anything on his T-shirt to say whether he was from any particular group, but I can say he didn't seem to be too worried about the welfare of his dog at that point.
That says a lot about caring about animal welfare - If you can't get it right at home and with your own dog - how on earth are you going to change the world?"
Kennel Club officials looked after the little dog until they were able to hand it over to the man’s sister later that evening.
It is understood that the man has no affiliations with any particular group, but is known to the NEC and West Midlands Police for similar breaches of security at events held at the NEC.
However, this beggars the question that if this individual is know for such stunts, how he was allowed permission to enter the NEC itself, let alone the main ring of Crufts?
Phil Buckley, the Kennel Club’s External Affairs Officer was sitting in the VIP seating area and watched the drama unfold, praising Jason Clarke for his swift action in alerting the NEC security personnel. The Crufts Committee later formally congratulated Mr Clarke for his presence of thought and alertness.
Mr Buckley issued a formal statement from the Kennel Club to OUR DOGS earlier this week, saying: "We are very dissatisfied that, once again, the main ring was breached during the Crufts Best In Show. The obvious appeal is for people to attempt to obtain their five seconds of fame on the BBC programme, but we find this type of behaviour extremely unacceptable and have taken the matter up with NEC security and will continue to liase with them in an attempt to ensure that this will not be allowed to re-occur in the future."
It is understood that the man was in possession of either a press pass or a special wrist band which allowed him access to the press area behind the main ring, although it should be patently obvious to any member of staff that no person with a dog should be allowed access to the main ring whilst judging is in progress, let alone a crossbreed with balloons tied to its collar, especially given that the Group Winners enter the ring from a separate holding area and entrance altogether.
One unconfirmed report relates to comments made by a member of NEC staff to a one of the OUR DOGS reporting team that the man was let through "because he had a wristband on". It is also rumoured that he was aided by another individual who was allegedly dressed as an NEC security guard.
The man’s identity has not been revealed although there is speculation that he may have given a false name in any event. It is understood that NEC security and Crufts officials are studying the BBC’s tape of the programme and CCTV footage to see exactly how the man gained access to the ring and evaded he detection of the 50 plus NEC security team.
Anger at the incident was clearly evident amongst spectators and exhibitors on the buses leaving the NEC for the car park later that evening, with many expressing the view that if the NEC could not guarantee basic security after so many breaches in the past, then might it not be best if the show was relocated to another venue that could guarantee security? As matters stand, the Kennel Club are understood to have signed another three year contract for Crufts to be staged at the NEC, although such contracts can be nullified if certain standards are not maintained by either party involved.
One member of the public, whose name was withheld on request, told OUR DOGS: "It’s all very well an idiot like that having his ‘bit of fun’, and it’s all very well the NEC saying that there was no harm done – I heard one of their staff say exactly that. But not only does it ruins peoples’ enjoyment of the show, it makes you think about what could have happened. This time, the dog had balloons tied to it. What if it had a bomb tied to it? Would it be ‘no harm done’ then?"
The NEC press office declined to comment on the matter.