Five reasons why the CLA Game Fair has come to an end

AFTER 58 incarnations, the CLA Game Fair hosted at Harewood House this summer will be the last. But just what has sounded the death knell of Britain’s biggest celebration of countryside field sports?

The 2015 CLA Game Fair at Harewood House. Picture: Simon Hulme.

1. Cost to organisers

It may have attracted around 150,000 visitors each year but the CLA Game Fair was simply proving too costly for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to put on every year - all in the setting of prestigious countryside estates.

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In a statement announcing that the 58th Game Fair at Harewood House near Leeds last month would be the final instalment, the CLA board said it had taken the “difficult” decision because the last three fairs had failed to generate enough income.

2. Expense for visitors

After yesterday’s announcement, visitors to the Fair’s Facebook page offered their thoughts on why the show will not go on. Some suggested a visit to the event was simply too expensive, both for the paying public and for exhibitors who wanted a trade presence, and this may have deterred people from returning year after year.

Those from a farming background may have prioritised core agricultural shows instead, not least because of the slim returns they have been receiving for various produce this year, such as milk and lamb.

One-day tickets bought in advance cost £25 for one adult with prices rising on the gate on the day.

3. Competition

Another key factor in the decision, the CLA board said, was the falling attendance over the last three years which it attributed to an “increasingly crowded summer calendar of outdoor events”.

There is no shortage of competition for people’s attention in Yorkshire. During the same week in August as this year’s Game Fair were the Ryedale, Borrowby, Emley and Sykehouse shows - all offering very affordable family days out.

A week earlier there was Driffield and Bingley shows and throw into the mix the Great Yorkshire Show - a firm favourite with not just people in Yorkshire but country-wide - which was held just a fortnight before the Game Fair this year, and people simply may have been spent up.

According to Welcome to Yorkshire’s event listings there was a festival of some description taking place somewhere in Yorkshire on 20 days out of 31 in July alone.

4. Image

Countryside sports and pursuits are often associated with a rich countryside elite with some pursuits, notably grouse shooting, proving divisive because of the on-going dispute between those who believe it to be supportive of, or damaging to, the environment.

It could be that many potential visitors felt the event wasn’t aimed at them or that it did not offer the same family-friendly sights and exhibits as the traditional agriculture-focussed shows.

5. No base

Did the Game Fair struggle to maintain a loyal following because of its migratory nature? The event has toured different sites across the country including being hosted at Harewood in 2003 - and was cancelled due to muddy weather at the site in 2007 - while next year’s event was due to be staged at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. Frequently held in southern counties this year’s event did attract a large number of visitors to Yorkshire from the South of England but the lack of familiarity with the event in the North may have done this year’s Fair no favours.