Unlike Gareth Southgate and his England squad, an enormous amount of British pigeons has been refused the chance to reach a major European final. This is because they do not have an exemption from transportation rules and health certificates. The strict rules mean pigeons cannot be easily transported from the UK to France and Spain where most of the well-known races are held.
It also means a 21-day quarantine has to be in place, which according to many pigeon fanciers is not suitable for elite pigeons.
The UK pigeon fanciers lost the privilege of free movement on December 31 when the UK left the Brexit transition period and the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.
Stuart Wilcox, 48, who has bred and raced pigeons since he was four, told The Telegraph: “We’ve got a great history in this sport. Just like England can get to the final of the Euros, we’ve got birds who can beat the best in Europe.
“At the moment, England is going to try and conquer Europe. Sadly, we haven’t got that opportunity.”
For many UK pigeon fanciers, this was the first time they were not able to compete against the best in Europe.
Northern Ireland could still compete as it is a part of the Single Market in order to avoid a hard Irish border.
It is estimated more than 50,000 pigeons are bred specifically to race in France every year.
And the Royal Pigeon Association is now asking the EU to solve the issue.
Ian Evans, the CEO of the association, said: “Unless we can get a sensible solution to this then we’re going to see a large proportion of our membership simply walk away from the sport.”
On top of the 21-day quarantine, there are many veterinary requirements that have to be met.
And France has made it very clear that UK fanciers must have the necessary health certificates which are only given after the 21-day period.
According to Mr Evans, the quarantine is simply unsuitable for pigeons who have to train like any other athletes.
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Geography and distance also make it almost impossible to race within the UK.
European races are also much more well-established.
British pigeon racing history might be at stake here as many pigeons are descendants of messenger pigeons used during World War One.
Mr Wilcox said: “The future for pigeon racing in the UK is grave without us being able to raise racing pigeons from the south, from France, Belgium and Spain.
“We start racing in April and go through to July. We’ve lost this year. France denied us access to race our birds.
“It’s a real struggle, there’s a really bad political environment. Our sport is really in danger of just falling apart.”
An EU official has confirmed that an exemption for British pigeons was unlikely, while a UK government source stated that they encourage the EU “to act pragmatically as part of our new trading relationship”.