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Article 3 – 2024 (April)

Australian Shooter Magazine

Question and Answers

Article 3 – 2024 (April)

Question:  I recently went to a major Sporting Clays competition with my son and we have both left very disillusioned. The targets that were thrown were fantastic, the competition was conducted perfectly, but the cheating was unbelievable. I personally watched referees bullied, mates calling “no targets” for each other and I would go as far to say that even score sheets were tampered with. I won’t be going back to this event ever again. Is this something you have ever had to deal with?

Name and address supplied and withheld.

Answer:  Your question is certainly not the first or, I would imagine, the last, on this topic. I have never been an avid Sporting Clays competitor, but I have had an awful lot to do with many that excel in this event and I would suggest that ninety-nine percent of them have never cheated in any way, but the one percent that do constantly bring with the remainder into a world of pain for their discipline of clay target shooting.

I wasn’t at the event you mentioned (I deleted your name and the competition from your question) so I won’t comment on any rumours that may being circulated throughout the sport. You asked if I had ever had to deal with cheating? I predominantly competed in the ISSF disciplines where, in major events, three referees are deciding the outcome of each target. If two of the three agree that the target was either hit or missed then that’s the result. There is no further discussion. Scores these days at all large international tournaments are electronically generated from the shooting range to the main scoreboard and are posted publicly around the world immediately therefore score-sheet tampering is impossible and bullying independent referees is unrealistic. I certainly have seen some competitors try, but largely to no avail.

The major events in ISSF are all ran professionally with only qualified referees presiding over the competition. Obviously in domestic events this strict supervision is relaxed with many events being refereed and scored by competitors from the previous squad of shooters. Despite this, at all levels of ISSF cheating is rare. To be honest it is a bit like golf. Cheating is simply not tolerated, but in saying that I don’t believe it should be accepted in any sport.

The obvious difference between Sporting Clays and any of the ISSF disciplines is that often the targets in sporting events are thrown over huge distances over varying terrain and throwing exactly the same target each time can be difficult especially when wind and undulating topography are involved. It is not uncommon to see sporting targets vary ten or more metres in their flight path between two consecutive competitors. This may of course may make some targets easier and obviously some harder, but simply claiming a “no target” when variances occur is not a realistic option.

“Bullying” referees is far more sinister and creates a very dangerous precedent if it is tolerated at any level. If a squad is administrated (the refereeing and scoring) by its own competitors then this can be a problem. “Mates” suggesting that the missed target flew a bit strangely and the shooter should “have that again” can ruin the day for everyone and I hope that this is an exception and not the rule on all sporting layouts.

Your suggestion that scorecards have been tampered with is where the line must be drawn. Any competitor maliciously changing a score needs to be banned and banned for a very long time. Some high profile international competitors have been caught doing this and have paid a very high price with their reputation in tatters. The same penalty should apply here.

So, what is the solution? The obvious answer would be to have independent referee and scorers on each stand with all scores being recorded electronically reporting back to a central station. This costs money and in many remote ranges it would be physically and financially impossible to implement such a system.

The only way money can be raised to fund professional staff is through your nomination fee. Would the majority of sporting clay competitors like to pay a ten or twenty dollar levy on top of their existing nomination to cover this? I would suggest that this would be a very unpopular move. I may be wrong, but knowing how most clay target competitors would drive across a major city to buy a slab of ammunition for five dollars less than the local gun shop is offering them for, I would think I would be correct in my assumption.

ISSF enforce totally random squadding in virtually all major events therefore getting your mates to “help out” becomes difficult. This suggestion might be worth considering at larger sporting events, but again, I think it would be a very unpopular suggestion as the vast majority of sporting clay competitors want to enjoy the competition experience, and rightly so, with their friends and family. It is tragic that we would have to consider these drastic measures to combat a very tiny minority, but if the object of the competition becomes “fairness and equitability” then this may come at the cost of “enjoyment”.

Sadly, I think the only logical short term solution is to make the administration of the sport aware of these shady competitors and maybe extra “special attention” is given to the squads they compete in so this type of behavior is weeded out.

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