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Winter League new structure progress report

Winter League

The Winter League Management Committee met on Wednesday to cover a number of matters including the format of the divisions for the 2023-24 season. With 14 new teams taking the total to 54 teams to fit into a fair and sensible structure, the Committee spent some time coming to a satisfactory and well-debated conclusion.

With 54 teams it was quickly agreed that six divisions of nine teams in each division was the preferred format. That produces a 16-week playing season, two more than last season. It was also quickly agreed that all promotion and relegation places as decided by the 2022-23 final league tables would be honoured. So teams finishing last season in the top two places are all promoted and teams finishing in the bottom two in each division are relegated.

No other teams from last season have been promoted or relegated with the decision taken that the strength of the new teams joining the League was such as to enable the additional 9th place in each of the 6 divisions to be taken by a new team. The debate over which new team should go into which division was the subject of close scrutiny before being finalised. The agreed structure will now be taken to the AGM on 26 July where all the teams will be represented and the new structure will be presented to them.

The extended season of 16 matchdays now has to be fitted into the October to February timeframe with the start date for each division to be set by the host club and dictated by their greenkeeper taking into account their green maintenance programmes.

The concept that winter bowling is detrimental to the condition of the green was raised and is regarded as a lazy misconception promoted by those who are opposed to winter bowling. Clubs at the meeting strongly repudiated any such claim where there is no evidence to support such views. All greens have problems at some time and winter bowling is an easy target to blame but the reality is that such claims falter in the face of the lack of evidence.

No host club has reported any long-term damage to their green caused by winter bowling. In fact the exact opposite is the truth with the additional income from Winter League participation allowing host clubs to invest more in the upkeep of their greens than has previously been the case to the benefit of summer and winter bowlers. With the continuing growth of the League there is an expectation that numbers will increase again for the 2024-25 season and planning has started to attract two more host greens by then. More of that in the very near future.

With the continuing increase of the number of teams in the League we now find ourselves to have outgrown our home over the past four years. With 54 teams to be catered for the Milnsbridge BC venue is no longer big enough to provide a comfortable venue for the increasing number of people attending our two all-teams meetings each year. The first of these being the Annual General Meeting scheduled for 10am on Wednesday 26 July which will now be held at Netherton Conservative Club. The Management Committee intends to continue to use Milnsbridge BC for its meetings where membership is usually of 10-12 officials and representatives.

The meeting also agreed to purchase sufficient bespoke scorecards to supply all teams for the full season along with coverage of the Winter Cup games.

With a new Division 6 in place for the coming season the League is now looking for two trophies to be awarded to the Division 6 Champions and the Division 6 Top Bowler. The League has been generously supported previously by donated trophies for all 11 winning teams and individuals and it is hoped that this trend will continue. So we are opening up the opportunity for any individual or club or organisation to donate a trophy for either of these two purposes. A donation of £70-£110 will provide for a good addition to the collection and at the same time commemorate an individual or organisation in perpetuity.

The Winter Cup will again be contested at the end of the 2023-24 season and with 104 entries last season and another division and 14 new teams involved the expectation is that this number will increase again. Thorpe Green have been invited to host the Finals Day next year as the League continues to rotate the honour among its host greens.

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