The early signs from local leagues are that the number of teams for the 2021 season is 10% lower than they were from the last season that records are available. The unknown impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to materialise and it isn't looking good at all.
Our listing of 16 local leagues below records the number of teams for the last 8 years and compares the 2021 league numbers against the last known years recorded on Bowlsnet. With 5 leagues 2021 fixtures now on Bowlsnet we can see a 10% reduction in the number of teams to date. Those 5 leagues have lost a total of 26 teams between them and they now have a total number of 236 teams as opposed to a previous last recorded total of 262.
The Mirfield League losing 7 teams which have withdrawn as compared against the 2019 total with the biggest loser to date being the Huddersfield Ladies League who have lost 10 of their 2020 total of 60 teams which is a 16.7% loss. The ladies leagues being the worst hit with the Ladies Works League also having a 17.6% reduction. Add to those the Veterans League (-5.2%), Mirfield League (-9.5%) and the Heavy Woollen Parks League (-12.5%) and the picture begins to look very black indeed.
We will keep updating this table as the leagues continue to issue their 2021 fixture programmes but a decline that has been apparent for a number of years now seems to be in freefall with the pandemic seemingly the cause of the acceleration. Currently we are only seeing a reduction in the number of teams but how long will it be before we begin to see a reduction in the number of clubs?