In any normal year we would be spending this time of the year thinking back to the bowls we had watched, or witnessed, this year and look at the plans and proposals for the next year.
As you may have noticed this year is like no other and a review of the year would be more like a medical report than anything else. So it is with some thanks that there’s something to write about with the circulation of end of year from the sport’s national governing body, the BCGBA.
The report, created by Chief Executive Officer Mark Bircumshaw, highlights the work done this year and I have summarised it and used it as the major source material for this article, there may even be the odd copy and paste! If you would like the full version then this has been sent to each county secretary for distribution to their own clubs and leagues.
Throughout the year the BCGBA management committee had been contacted by a number of counties and leagues’ highlighting the affect this year was having on the bowling community.
It is not likely that the BCGBA will be able to hold a meeting to fully debate this year until well into 2021. The normal pathway for decision making and communication is through the county associations. In a normal year each county, league or clubs will meet regularly but this year has seen restrictions on every day so meetings or gatherings have been prevented. The BCGBA meetings for this year have been held over Zoom and have been subject to the restrictions that come with holding meetings in this way.
A wider look at the problems the sport is facing as a result of this pandemic and also a look at the financial side of the BCGBA will be done in future specific articles. So please forgive me if I only briefly touch on that side of things in this humble offering.
What is the BCGBA
The British Crown Green Bowling Association is recognised by Sport England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as the governing body for crown green bowls. Without this recognition the sport would be regarded as a pastime and this would have consequences any club or county trying to apply for grants or awards.
Sport England funding is received through the Bowls Development Alliance (BDA), which the BCGBA is re-joining, and some of its clubs have been offered support funding. The main area of work with the BDA has been to establish Safeguarding standards. The BCGBA is also a member of the Youth Sports Trust, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and is about to become a full member of Coach Bowls Ltd.
The BCGBA is run day to day by a small workforce of part-time staff and in this strangest of years the majority have been furloughed for most of the time since it was introduced. Even now the most of the officers are either furloughed or are working to restricted hours. The workforce form part of an Executive Committee and work with a Management Committee, which is made up of county representatives, to run the sport.
In an attempt to ensure its long-term sustainability the BCGBA is continuing to collect membership fees. The majority of its funding comes from a club fee of £35, and is reported as being the lowest of any sporting body and is claimed to work out at less than 6p per week to each player. The fee is paid through the county associations.
(Editor’s note: although it is difficult to know when bowls can fully resume and how many clubs and greens have survived the pandemic, it is thought that over 15% of clubs have yet to pay the yearly affiliation fees. It must be noted that BCGBA rules are quite clear on the date of paying these fees and if followed then these clubs and players are now suspended.
Also the new player registration fees are placed in to the trustee managed development fund. When the fund was started a number restrictions were placed on what it can be used for, for example it cannot be used to support the day to day running costs of the BCGBA and all this, and more, will hopefully be explained in more detail in another article).
In his report Mark states it is imperative that this funding is continued to ensure the sport is kept alive and he indicates that the work of the BCGBA is done on very small margins and without an internal reserve.
Mark also indicates that the funding of the association will have to be reviewed as a priority in subsequent meetings and a restructuring of the BCGBA is a priority. The current funding model states each club, and new player, pay via their county association.
To compare its work with our colleagues in other bowling codes is unfair as they have full-time staff, historically funded by higher fees, and who have not been furloughed. Clubs can also sign up to Sport England’s Sport Matters website to access information.
What’s been done to move forward?
Some of the work being done over the last year or so has been to create a National Database. This currently has somewhere in the region of 80,000 player details entered on it from registration forms provided by clubs. This now means some statistics on the sport can be produced.
Current junior membership is at 5%, the over 60 age group covers 70% of members and female membership is under 30% but not all data is entered yet with many of the clubs who register through the Ladies association not yet entered.
With this data entered the BCGBA is about to launch a membership scheme. This will include a benefits package which will cost each member to register and pay £7 per year, for the use of an app and there is also the opportunity to receive a discount card, but could provide members with savings at over 270 shops.
The scheme will be run through the go-membership website which hosts the national database. The aim is for each member will be able to access their own data and will also require each club manage their own data.
Throughout the year the BCGBA has been involved in discussions with the government on how the sport can relaunch next year in a safe way. This will continue for as long as the country is affected by the pandemic.
Plans for next year include projects delayed from this year which include an initiative to introduce bowls into the school sports curriculum in Lancashire, a Bowls for Health project, with the Merseyside Active Partnership, to publicise and encourage new players to take up the game, and also links referrals to bowling clubs from medical professionals and pharmacies (Editor’s note: this was originally developed by the Formby Sports Village and will be familiar to those who know about that project) and work with the BDA club Development Project called “Women Can”.
The year of COVID….
This year has been a challenge to everyone. For sporting associations it has meant releasing updates on the guidance and legislation that have been put in place by the government.
The legislation has seen the closing of all sports facilities in March and a gradual reintroduction of bowls as a physical activity over the summer. This was all done with social distancing and reducing the social gatherings so to prevent or restrict the spread of the virus.
Clubs were able to open in a COVID secure way and although the sociability of the sport is very important it is not worth putting the health and well-being of members at risk.
The Government launched a Community Emergency Fund and over 400 clubs applied and received something the region of £750,000.
(Editor’s note: sport England has a new fund which clubs may be able to access. It’s called ‘return to play’ and the link is below)
To conclude and in brief and with the help of bullet points.
What does British Crown Green Bowling Association do?
- Operates as the Governing Body of Crown Green Bowls (recognised by Sport England and the Department for Culture Media and Sport)
- Manages and maintains the governance of the sport to comply with legislation
- Ensures we have the systems and procedures to comply with legislation
- Undertakes the above to maintain a safe sport for all
- Works with outside organisations and groups for safeguarding, coaching and development
- Manages and maintains the structure of the sport, including Counties, League, club records and membership of players
- Maintains a National database of players
- Maintains the Laws of the Game and Bye laws of the organisation
- Organises the National level competitions, for County Championships, Senior, Junior, Ladies and Veteran players, merits and pairs competitions, Champions competitions.
- Produces annual handbooks and supporting information
- Maintains the records of the Association
- Working with outside bodies to support the Associations members – including offering discounted Public Liability Insurance, also available is discounted accident cover options for players and Officers and Directors Liability is available to cover club and league committees. This is a membership benefit starting between £45 and £50 and is obviously dependent on what you want included. Commercially this could cost £200 per club.
- Promotes the game with the assistance of Volunteer County development officers, Coaches, referees, and other volunteer members.
- Manages and maintains the discipline code and appeals processes
- Supports the development of referees
- Grants for Clubs (see handbook for details)
- Green maintenance seminars through Dennis Mowers Ltd.
- Equipment – Standards Jacks committee – working with the bowls manufacturers
- Disability – supporting players with a disability or long-term health condition to play bowls
- Player development- projects to help clubs increase membership, working with County Development Officers and sports partnerships to deliver a National Development Plan. Additional support in identifying funding opportunities
It will be interesting to see the reaction to the report from the bowls community. The problems facing the sport, whether it be the BCGBA or a club have been unprecedented in living memory. The only thing I would predict is that this year will be long remembered, and for tragic reasons
I would like to apologise for the delay in replying to anyone who has tried to contact me through the website. Unfortunately the site came under some sort of attack and I have to tidy a few things up.
Hopefully there will be more articles ready in the coming weeks., until then stay safe.