June 1st 2018 saw one of the biggest changes for several years in the GCCF's show format. Gone were the familiar old section names describing the type of cat – Persian, Semi-Longhair, Siamese etc.. In their place were less obvious numbered sections – Section1, Section 2 etc, up to Section 6. There were also changes in the Grand and Imperial classes, where the groupings of breeds was different. So what are all the changes, and how do they change things for competitors? This article will attempt to explain the main differences, and demonstrate how GCCF shows will now work.
The old groupings simply described the types of cats in each section. There were seven of them – Persian, Semi-Longhair, British, Foreign, Burmese, Siamese, and Oriental. However, it was not quite that straightforward. New breeds, as they came along, had been fitted into what seemed to be the most logical section, but not always in a way which was obvious. So, for example Exotic Shorthairs were in the Persian section, as they were basically short haired Persians. Yet to many it seemed strange to have a short haired breed judged along with all the Longhairs. The British section included the Selkirk Rex, which is American, and the Chartreux, which is French. The Foreign section had the Cornish Rex and Devon Rex, which both originated in Britain. And there were other anomalies too. It all made sense when you looked at the body type of the cat involved, but was very confusing for many people. Indeed, new exhibitors sometimes had to look through a whole show schedule to find out where their breed belonged! Clearly, a change was due...
There are now six new sections; some are the same as before and have simply changed from a name to a number, but others have been significantly altered. The new groupings are as follows...
Section 1 – Persianand Exotic Shorthairs
Section 2 – All Semi-Longhaired Breeds
Section 3 – British, Manx, Selkirk Rex, and Chartreux
Section 4 – Foreign Breeds, as before
Section 5 – Burmese, Asian, Tonkinese, and Australian Mist
Section 6 – Oriental, Siamese, Balinese, and Suffolk
As can be seen, Sections 1 – 4 are pretty much the same as they have always been, and have just changed in name. However, a number of breeds formerly in the Foreign section are now combined with the Burmese to create Section 5. And the most striking change is that the previous Oriental and Siamese/Balinese sections are now combined into the new Section 6.
Under the old format, in most instances cats entering the 'Grand' classes, ie Grand Champion and Grand Premier, had to compete against all the other Champions and Premiers of all breeds in the entire section. This created some problems, particularly in the Semi-Longhair Group, which in recent years has become extremely popular. Grand classes became huge, with chances of winning vanishingly small. It could be demoralising for many exhibitors. With this in mind, the popular Birmans were given their own Grand class some years ago. But with the increasing popularity of Maine Coons, Ragdolls, and a few other Semi-Longhair breeds, the problem persisted.
Under the new system, in Section 2 there are three separate classes for the Grands...
In Section 3, the Selkirk Rex has its own Grand class, rather than being combined with the British, as happened under the old format. In Section 4, the breeds are divided up similarly into three classes for the Grands, in Section 5 there are two Grand classes, and in Section 6 the Orientals are split from the Siamese and Balinese to form two Grand classes. In Section 1, the Persians and Exotic Shorthairs are judged separately in a similar fashion.
When it comes to the Imperial classes, the cats in the whole section are judged against each other, as in the past. This means that the main difference is in Section 6 of course, which includes the cats from two old sections, the Siamese and the Oriental. And after this, all cats are judged against each other for the Olympian classes as was done under the old system.
It might seem that the new format is more logical, fairer, and would be welcomed by everyone. But so far this has not been the case. The initial reaction among many people was confusion! Although the GCCF had published plans purporting to show which cats fitted in which groupings, many people found them hard to understand. Some exhibitors were not even aware of changes, and suddenly found themselves presented with a show schedule which looked totally unfamiliar, the old names having disappeared, and new numbers heading each section. Show managers did their best to explain things and to make the new sections clear, but schedules are hard for newer exhibitors to follow anyway, and sudden and dramatic changes did not help.
The most disgruntled exhibitors were probably those who had previously had cats in the Oriental and Siamese sections, who suddenly found that their section had doubled in terms of numbers. Many of them were quite annoyed. Other people simply disliked change of any type, and felt that the old system had worked well, so why change it, ie 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
But many, particularly owners of Semi-Longhaired cats, have welcomed the changes, particularly to the Grand classes, which were becoming more and more difficult for the Semi-Longhairs. And it must be clear to everyone that the new format will be better in the future, since it allows for growth in the number of cat breeds. And since there are frequently new breeds coming along, this is important.
The changes to the GCCF show format are very new. Only a handful of shows have so far run things using the new format, so it is a little early to come to any definite conclusions. All that can be said so far is that no huge problems seem to have come to light, and the initial furore on social media seems to be dying down. So hopefully this bodes well for GCCF showing in the future, and eventually the new show format will come to be regarded as normal.