BCGBA AGM – the last of its kind?

Once a year, representatives of the members of the British Crown Green Bowling Association gather to decide on rule changes and hear reports on what happened since they last met.

For those who have been going to these meetings year after year, there is a familiarity with what happens as each meeting kind of blurs into the next. There really isn’t much of a change from year to year, possibly except for there are fewer past Presidents going now.

This meeting was different, it was the last governed by rules going back to the elder times, and there will be a different set of rules governing the association from now on. The new governance proposals will bring the sport into line with government recommendations on how a sport should be run. With a structure more in line with how the government, through Sport England, think things should be done it should make the sport more accessible to direct funding. Within the next few days, the senior executives will meet to start the process to recruit members of an independent board. How the sport will be run in the future will be very different from how it has been.

The first part of the day discusses the rule changes and must attract 67% of the votes to pass, and first one was the most contentious.

The BCGBA receives it primary source of income from a club affiliation fee in its membership policy, for 2023 it’s £40 and paid by the approximately 2000 clubs. For years though, there have been attempts to move this income source over to a fee paid by each player. The proposal stated that each player must pay £1 for each club they are a member of. Previous attempts to get it approved by the meeting have just failed and it was the same again. Though it did get a majority, it wasn’t enough to get passed.

After this vote the Chairman of the Trustees gave an indication of how they will be supporting projects this year, after having to accept that funds initially loaned from the trustee account would not be repaid, and then in the afternoon the discussion of the BCGBA’s finances showed how much pressure the BCGBA is under to balance its books. The vote saw several Committee members feel unable to support it, due to the strength of feeling in their counties against the individual player fee. I can reveal that in Merseyside and Greater Manchester those attending the meetings to discuss this, and in favour of it, could have been counted on one hand.

During the meeting the proposals passed refer to:

  • An increase in the open competition certificate fee a club must purchase.
  • A county must find a seconded for any proposal it wants to put forward.
  • A standardised dress code for the men’s and ladies’ competitions.
  • As the Federation of Crown Green bowls was recently made a full member of the BCGBA, they should be included in competitions.
  • Changes to the World Club Championship rules as it reverts to being played in October of the qualifying year.
  • New rules ensuring counties play qualifying competitions for events and let the BCGBA know of the qualifiers in good time for arrangements to be made for finals day.

All the updated rules will be published on the BCGBA website.

The meeting was held at the Winnington Park Club in Cheshire and in between the Rules Revision meeting and the Annual General meeting we had an amazingly good lunch.

The AGM in the afternoon consists of the Chief Executives report, the Financial Officers report and the formal election of the President and Deputy President for the year.

In his report, Chief Executive Mark Bircumshaw stated in the 5 years since his appointment the BCGBA was a different organisation to when he started.

At interview he was asked to modernise the association and this he has tried to do. He outlined the cooperation that exists with the other bowls governing bodies. This started with re-joining the Bowls Development Alliance to help develop the Safeguarding guidelines and has now spread to cross-code projects. As Sport England seems happy to provide financial assistance for projects across the wider sport of bowls, the BCGBA will be looking to take part in other cross code projects. The Safeguarding guidelines will have to be enhanced this year, to comply with recommendations of the Ann Croft Trust and will likely apply to all adults as well as children and vulnerable adults.

A Disciplinary code will be published in March which will help police online abuse and concerns about player and spectator behaviour.

The bowls at the Commonwealth games received over 10.8 million views spread across platforms, with Sport England viewing Bowls as one sport played in different codes, this data can be used to show the interest there is in the sport, and in our areas the interest in crown green bowls.

Mark stated he thinks the BCGBA is ahead of the other codes in its readiness for government funding. During the pandemic recovery initiative, crown green clubs received over £1 million in government support. To attract further government funding crown green clubs must modernise their structure.

Mark stated the BCGBA has far fewer employees compared to the other codes. English Indoor Bowls has a £4 per year affiliation and Bowls England, with its player affiliation fee likely increasing to £12.50 per year, has 15 full-time employees compared to our 2 part-time staff and hard-working officers. The BCGBA must bring in a similar fee as Sport England don’t see the current income stream as a way of properly funding the sport.

In the coming weeks the BCGBA will publish its plans for the independent board and its plans for the next 3 years.

Manchester council has announced a feasibility study to see if an indoor facility should be built, most likely at Heaton Park where the BCGBA has a base. This is a shared project and hopefully a flat green and crown green will be built. I believe a sponsor to help offset running costs may have been secured through the flat green association. This facility should be able to attract bowlers from across the north-west, if not further, so it should be able to vastly increase the number of bowlers who use the parks bowling facilities.

Graeme Underhill, the Financial Officer, outlined the difficult year just completed. The year should not be compared to the previous year which had fewer activities due to Covid restrictions.

Graeme stated the drop to just over 2,000 clubs was below the forecasted levels. Numerous leagues take place in the winter, but they do not contribute via the League and Association fees.

The wages for the salaried officers have increased as per the increase in the national minimum wage.

A problem at one of the events last year has made it necessary to have a specific green manager at events, rather than a leave it all to the referees to sort out. As there is a cost of running each competition, more staff on duty will mean an increase in costs which will be shown in the next accounts.

Some of the handbook advertisers had not paid for the advert before it went to print, they also haven’t paid since.

The large increase in office rent and storage (up over £4,500) was due to the BCGBA now having an office for Mark to work from. This meant that Mark didn’t have to use rooms in his apartment to store BCGBA equipment and documents. The sponsorship from the Insurers was reduced by a third but was expected to increase this year.

The meetings in 2021 were almost exclusively online, last year only Executive meetings were held this way,  and the cost of having face to face meetings was £2750.

The return of competitions meant a big increase in turnover in the competitions account with most competitions not having sponsors. It was stated from one of the counties that the BCGBA should impose a fee for each entry in a county qualifying event. For example, the Yorkshire merit has one of the larger entries, if we use an example of an entry of 500. If each player entering also contributed £2 or more to the British Senior Merit and Champion of Champions prize funds, and when all counties are included, this could eradicate most if not all the losses on competitions.

The competitions sub-committee is tasked at looking at all options to reduce the deficit of £22,132 in the men’s and £11,626 in the ladies. The ongoing deficit of the competitions account now exceeds £216,000 when historic data is considered. The equalising of prize money in the Ladies and Men’s game is considered an important step, though it has increased the deficit in the Ladies accounts, as the sport treats its players equally. The sport should be able to attract sponsors because of this.

As we seem to be the main user of the facilities now at Heaton Park, we have been asked to contribute to the upkeep costs. The costs include in these accounts reflected an invoice of £7,500 for 18 months use and came from the Development account rather than the General account. The Development account, funded from the new registrations which again showed an increase, continues to show a surplus.

BCGBA decided a few years ago to join the Coach Bowls scheme (which was developed through the BDA), as such we do not offer our own coaching but pay to be part of that scheme with its formal structure and accreditation. This large increase in coaching expenditure reflects the increased number we pay to go through the scheme.

Dividends received from the Market investments saw a rise in the surplus on the investment account. As everyone will know last year saw instability in the costs of just about everything including the financial markets. The market value of the investments increased by over £30,000 in 2021 but registered a decrease of nearly £10,000 last year.

We rounded the meeting off with the election of Martin Goddard to the role of President. Martin will be hosting the British Senior Merit at Heaton Park. Frank James from Staffordshire was elected to the role of Deputy President.

A huge thanks to those who have made it this far. I’ve included the BCGBA Financial Statement below, this was accepted by the meeting as being a true and accurate record of the accounts, at close of business for the year in October.

About Steve Davies 168 Articles
Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game as well as a keen player of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Media Officer for the BCGBA, Merseyside champion in 2002 and Merseyside County President (2014-15) Steve has always been keen to promote the game especially through the broadcast of the game on TV or Internet. Steve set up the LIVE BOWLS YouTube channel which became the Bowls Observer channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report on and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine.