The Mirfield League publishing their 2022 fixture programme this weekend reveals another massive drop in teams playing in competitions for the coming season. With a loss of 10 teams from the pre-pandemic total means a 14.5% reduction in team numbers over that period. The table below records the number of teams in 19 local leagues over the past 9 years. It doesn't make good reading.
It is recognised that the last couple of years has taken a hit because of the Covid pandemic which is why the table below now compares 2022 numbers with the pre-pandemic totals which is the most sensible approach to compare the two most recent 'normal' years. There was no bowling at all in 2020 although some leagues had issued their fixture lists by then to reveal team numbers. Last year saw different leagues taking different approaches to bowling and many bowlers were still cautious about being in public settings so those figures are distorted as well.
To just compare the latest totals against 2021 is too simplistic and misleading. The Spin-doctors will no doubt use that comparison to tell us that everything in the garden is wonderful (or not as bad as they really are). They are in denial and that is why the work of the new group of local leagues, the Huddersfield Bowling Development, working together to promote bowling in the area is so important.
The right-hand column of the table below shows the percentage difference in team numbers between the last two 'normal' years of 2019 and 2022. Some leagues have taken some big hits with the Heavy Woollen Parks League losing 3 of their 14 teams over that period and dropping down from two to just one division of 11 teams to record a 37% drop in team numbers.
The Huddersfield Veterans 6-Man League is at the top of the growth table with two more teams this year as compared with 2019, a 6.5% increase but their showcase 10-Man League has a 5% reduction in numbers over the same time period.
There are still a number of leagues to add their fixture lists to the Bowlsnet system and we will continue to add those to the table as they are confirmed. The missing ones include the Huddersfield League which has seen a drop in numbers every year since they have used the Bowlsnet system. Having already decided that there will no longer be any 12-man team competitions we can expect an increase over the 2021 total of 50 teams who played in friendly arranged fixtures but will the reduction in team numbers trigger a boost over the 2019 totals. It would be very welcome but would also buck the trend. If anyone is in any doubt that our sport is in serious decline then they are not seeing the overwhelming evidence in front of them.