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An Appreciation of Bowlsnet

Bowling News


I don't think that it is an exaggeration to say that Bowlnet has changed the way that bowling is viewed in this country. Although primarily an administrative tool it has infiltrated more than the fundamental record keeping of crown green bowling to influence the way that our sport is regarded and helped drag this 'old man's sport' into the 21st century.


It is also something unique to crown green bowling that we don't share with anyone else. The system is not used by the more popular lawn bowls as we all know that the two versions are incompatible in the way that they are played, administered and supported. Whilst the lawn bowls administrative and leadership model may far outclass the crown green version there is no comparison when it comes to the adoption of computer technology to promote the sport.


Bowlsnet first saw the light of day as a tool to be used by bowling leagues in 2013 following on, I believe, from a trial period supporting the Prestwich League where Steve Blaymire, the Bowlsnet developer, played and was in an administrative position. It wasn't called Bowlsnet then it was known as All-But in its infancy. Lots more about Steve later in this posting but for now it is sufficient to say that his foresight and background enabled the creation of a toolset to radically change the way that our sport is administered saving clubs and leagues time and money.


I first became aware of Bowlsnet in 2013 when I joined the Management Committee of the Huddersfield Veterans League. I hadn't intended to join the Management Committee but I did attend one of their meetings to offer my services in developing a website for the League. I sold the idea to them, which wasn't difficult as I promised that there would be no cost to the League. I did stipulate that I would need to be present at Management Committee meetings to collect information and help promote the workings of the League.


It was suggested that I should therefore become a fully-fledged member of the Committee which I duly did. Around the same time David Sykes and John Hoyle also joined the Committee and we went on two years later to become the three secretaries responsible for much of the day-to-day running of the League.


The website was up and running in November 2013 and soon became very interactive with daily updates and a growing audience. At the same time I first became aware of a computer development primarily over the hill in Lancashire called 'All But' that I initially saw as an improved means of collecting match results. I sold the concept to the Veterans League Management Committee by offering to fund the very modest start-up costs myself and so the League had its own website and computerised results reporting system for the start of the 2014 season, the first League in Huddersfield to use the system.


Although initially viewed as a results reporting system it was already clearly much more than that with the weekly input of results leading to automatic dynamic reporting of results, league tables and player averages. Leagues were keen to adopt the system which saved club's postage costs of the weekly results card and also dramatically changed the production of league tables which previously had tended to be managed by local spreadsheets updated and sent to the local newspapers for publication along with the results.


The setting up of a league on Bowlsnet has never been a straightforward job especially for anyone unfamiliar with the use of computer systems. However, over time the functionality of the system has grown rich whilst becoming easier to use. Certainly the production of the fixture lists has become so much easier using Bowlsnet rather than the protracted process of ensuring that there is no green clashes between A and B teams. Bowlsnet does all that for you but only if you set the system up to match your requirements carefully in the first place.


During the 7 years I administered the Bowlsnet system for the Veterans League it never cost the League a penny as I funded it. In my opinion the costs were modest and saved me lots of time by taking away much of the administration workload. For example the Veterans 10-Man League with 60 teams plays around 800 league matches every season. The cost of Bowlsnet for that size league is £40 per year. A modest sum indeed with all the overheads associated with a system supporting over 200 customers and a 365-days a year support expectation with a full order of summer and winter leagues signed up.


Bowlsnet Live

Last year Steve Blaymire introduced a new facility in Bowlsnet with the functionality to part-submit match results and then complete them later. This for example enabled teams to submit the first four match results on to the system which would then provide a running aggregate scoreline. Steve's vision was that this functionality would support leagues and teams that wanted to provide an online almost Teletext service to anyone in following match scores as they were taking place.


Steve told me that his vision was that this would become a 'live system' passing on match scores as they happened. This coincided with an experiment we conducted in the Winter League by introducing our own OSCAR (Online SCores And Result) system which was doing something very similar. However OSCAR was an added system whereas the Bowlsnet Live service was feeding the completion of the results system as well. We stopped developing OSCAR once it became clear that Bowlsnet Live provided a more than adequate facility with less administrative effort. We continue to use Bowlsnet Live for our Winter Cup competition and I also used it for Finals Day of the Mirfield Merit last July.


The Future

So what does the future hold for Bowlsnet? Well Steve Blaymire has always tried to meet the suggestions of leagues as they come across different scoring systems and league setups which they look to Bowlsnet to support. As a League Secretary himself, Steve is well aware of the demands of a bowling community to satisfy the idiosyncracies of all manner of demands. I have made a number of development suggestions over the years, many of which have been provided.


Steve must be coming to the bottom of the pile of suggestions now surely, there are only so many different scoring systems in operation. The service is very stable nowadays leaving behind, hopefully, the days went the SOS (Save Our Statistics) message went out after a system failure had lost two weeks data that every team and league would have to input again.


Steve Blaymire Part 1 (by himself)

Obviously I'm a Crown Green Bowler. If you don't know what this is (and you probably won't, unless you live in the North of England or the Midlands) then you'll probably want to leave now. I have been playing bowls since 1985 - and watched my dad Archie Blaymire for years before that. I was the match secretary of three leagues and the County Secretary of the Greater Manchester County Bowling Association from 2001-2003. I also qualified as a county referee, and officiated at a number of county matches. I used to play almost every day during the summer, until I decided to become a maths teacher in 2005, when bowling took a back seat.

After 5 years I once again became the secretary of the Middleton Sunday Bowling League and match secretary of the Rossendale Parks Bowling League and started bowling in three leagues again (take note all new teachers - there is hope of a bit of a work-life balance once you're 'experienced'). In 2014 I was forced to take early retirement on health grounds, now I can bowl as much as I want, unless I'm on another cruise!


I was a software engineer (or a computer programmer if you prefer) for over 20 years, working for a whole range of scientific and defence companies, including the European Space Agency. I finally took the plunge and detoured from this safe path for a career in teaching. A massive pay cut, 70 hour (plus) weeks, occasional frustrating moments - what could be better? The answer is "nothing" in general - but I didn't say that every day! Always different, never dull, and often uplifting. Doing something rewarding and giving something back at the same time - it was even better than bowling! I was a maths teacher at All Saints' Catholic Language College in Rawtenstall from 2005-2008 - a really nice, friendly school. I ran a school Musicals Club - taking pupils to the theatre on a regular basis, the highlight being a trip in 2007 - taking 27 pupils to New York to see "Hairspray" on Broadway. I moved to another less-nice school in Bolton in 2009 - and left rather quickly (it's no good being a teacher where you can't teach). I was then at Unity College in Towneley Park, Burnley until 2014. We were lucky enough to get a brand new building in 2011 and it was a fantastic place to teach, but more importantly it gave the children of Burnley a great environment to learn in. It was a really good maths department and I would still be there now, but unfortunately the stresses and strains of teaching took it toll and I was forced to retire at the ripe old age of 57. I continued to teach Further Maths twice a week at Unity on a voluntary basis until 2017,and helped out with their musical productions, much less stressful and just as rewarding.

Steve Blaymire Part 2 (by me)


With over 200 leagues now signed up and dependent on Bowlsnet for the smooth running of their leagues and knock-out competitions support becomes a real issue. Steve Blaymire is the sole individual with the expertise and access to ensure that the service runs smoothly.


Even on one of his holiday cruises Steve usually has access to support the system in the event of anything going wrong. Computers are liable to do that and Bowlsnet is not immune to failings. Steve is always mindful of not interfering in league matters by referring users contacting him about matters that are league-based and redirecting such queries onward.


He always welcomes suggestions on how he might improve the system especially as regards new features to be included. He is interested in what the system can do for its user base. He enjoys adding new features which he himself may use in the administration of the league he is involved with. Regular updates to the system enhance the user experience and improve its stability.


My big concern is what happens when Steve isn't available any longer to take on that responsibility. I don't know if he has plans beyond his ownership of the system but it is going to leave a big gap in the administration of many leagues up and down the country should Bowlsnet not be available for any reason. I am sure that he could profit from all his work by selling the system to a commercial developer. I am also sure that a commercial developer would be looking to get a return on his investment by raising the annual price of access to all leagues.


The big plus about the system is that it has been written by someone who understands how to administer a bowling league as he has done that for a number of years. He understands the impact if the service isn't there any more and he knows what particular functionality on the system is key in the running of any league. You rarely get a user's angle of any other system that you may use. Would any future commercial developer be able to offer that first-hand knowledge of administering a bowling league?


Finally

I feel very fortunate that I have been in an administrative role for the last 10 years in the Veterans League and now in the Winter League at the same time that Bowlsnet has been around to support the workload that inevitably comes with running a league. My alternative would have required setting up a range of spreadsheets to support the production of results, tables and bowler averages. Online results reporting would be relatively easy to establish but without being the all-inclusive product that Bowlsnet has become. The instant updating of tables and averages as each result is input by the teams is unsurpassed in the world of amateur sports administration.


Bowlnet has become the number one tool in the proper administration of a bowling league and long may that continue. No self-respecting league could function properly without the superlative aid that Bowlsnet has become. Thanks Steve.


Now go to the homepage of HuddWeb to keep up to date with

all the Huddersfield, Yorkshire and national news about crown green bowling

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paw4647
paw4647
19 oct 2023

We are greatly in debt to Steve. For someone like me ( interested in numbers , statistics etc.) I think Bowlsnet is fantastic. It keeps me amused for ages looking at the results of teams, league tables, studying the averages, results of bowlers I know, the form of teams and bowlers my team are about to play etc. So please , Steve, keep up the good work.

Thanks, Philip of Lindley

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