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The Future of Bowls

Bowling News

The ruling body for flat green bowling, lets call it Lawn Bowls, seem to be light years ahead of the BCGBA in waking up to the very real threat that is hovering over many grass-root sports. I can see no action, or even a recognition that action is needed, from those responsible for promoting and steering our sport through these difficult times. Quite the opposite in Lawn Bowls where the dangers have been long recognised and a strategy agreed to tackle the root causes of the problem.

The latest steps are to address a likely downgrading of the sport at its very top level. Being part of the Commonwealth Games has long been a shop window for Lawn Bowls and changes to how that competition is managed is under review with a number of sports, including Lawn Bowls, in the firing line. The flat green version of our sport has recognised the problems the sport has in attracting new bowlers and is reacting to that. The Commonwealth Games is seen as a great opportunity to do that but changes in format of the Games in 2026 may jeopardise its inclusion.

The need to change is now well recognised by the Lawn Bowls governing body and they are promoting the need to change in order to remain to be seen as a mainline sport for the Commonwealth Games. Lawn Bowls even has a plan, a blueprint of the future, to guide them through this difficult period. If Lawn Bowls can see the threat to their sport why can't Crown Green Bowls governing body, the BCGBA, see the same dangers?

This article from the Bowls International magazine sets out the argument for change for Lawn Bowls. Even the title is something you are never going to see appearing in any BCGBA paperwork. The arrogance of our leaders doesn't even acknowledge that there is a problem and this mindset has permeated down to grass-root levels with many leagues taking the BCGBA lead in believing that there is no threat to crown green bowling and that nothing needs fixing because nothing is broken. Wake up and smell the embalming liquid!

Bowls International magazine 31 December 2021

Bowls ‘Has To Make Itself Attractive To A Wider Non-Bowls Audience’

News that the number of compulsory sports that Commonwealth Games hosts will have to stage in future is set to be cut from 16 to just two has sparked concern for the future of bowls in the event. Described by one leading official as a ‘killer blow’, there are now calls to make bowls attractive to a wider non-bowls audience.

Under a radical new ‘strategic roadmap’ designed to preserve the event’s future, only athletics and swimming will enjoy protected status. With Games bosses struggling to convince cities to bid for the event, the shake-up is designed to give potential hosts more choice over their programme. As well as greater freedom to select urban and e-sports in a bid to appeal to younger audiences, cities will be encouraged to select entirely new disciplines that are popular locally. In an attempt to drive down costs and innovate, co-hosting will be encouraged and there will be no requirement for an athletes’ village.

However, there is now anxiety among the many sports whose place in the programme will no longer be mandatory. And for non-Olympics sports like bowls – for whom the Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle of their calendar – the reforms are especially worrying.

Nineteen sports will feature at Birmingham 2022, but the new proposals recommend that is reduced to around 15 for the 2026 event. According to the CGF, athletics and swimming are being protected ‘due to their historical place on the programme since 1930, and based on universality, participation, broadcasting, spectator interest, para-inclusion and gender balance.’

By restricting the number of mandatory sports to just athletics and swimming, the new roadmap will allow hosts the space to choose the likes of surfing, skateboarding and climbing – all new to the Olympic programme – along with e-sports. Sports that are especially popular in a host country – such as lacrosse in Canada or kabaddi in India – would also been encouraged.

So, what’s next for bowls? Darryl Clout, president of World Bowls says: In releasing the roadmap, the CGF president, Dame Louise Martin, stressed that the Games ‘need to adapt, evolve and modernise to ensure we continue to maintain our relevance and prestige across the Commonwealth’.

Dame Louise’s words and the recommendations set out in the roadmap present a challenge for our sport in the years ahead. The clear message to our sport is that we must build on the record and reputation which we currently hold in the Games movement. We now need to look for ways in which we can improve our game and its delivery and appeal and look at this challenge as an exciting opportunity to position ourselves as a ‘must have’ for future Games programmes. How we do that will be high on the list of actions for the World Bowls board in consultation with each of our members in the coming months and years.

The clear message to all sports is that if we are to remain relevant and appealing to future Games hosts, organisers, sponsors and spectators we need to be prepared to think ‘outside the square’ and not just present the same event, in the same manner, it has been delivered for many Games. It may be that we have to accept that such a move may take us away from our traditional style and disciplines. Our sport has a long and rich history at the Commonwealth Games and it is imperative for many reasons that it remains on future programmes.

You can be assured that all ideas will be considered by the Board as we work through this critical time in our history to ensure we maintain our position as a key Commonwealth Games sport.

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michael john ralph
michael john ralph
27 janv. 2022

I write in response to 'The Future of Bowls' with which I am in 100% agreement.

The points raised are particularly relevant to our sport, the key element being that change is required.

Perhaps, maybe perhaps, some of our local league administrators who have their heads buried in the sands of time will also recognise that change is required and will as a result support any sensible ideas /initiatives to promote our sport which without the aforementioned will continue to decline.

We can but hope!

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