I sat on the zoom meeting last night where Jon Cockcroft explained the reason for the format of the competitions for 2021 which will not necessarily be the same as 2022.
There will be a survey being sent out in the next few days where we can all submit our thoughts re ends/number of bowls/ etc.
He also explained the reason behind charges to watch the National Championships. Most sports spectators have to pay to watch the big championship games and £4 (pre-ordered) is not exactly excessive. There are now stands, more loos, larger refreshment areas and some streamed matches – improvements that don’t come on a wing and prayer and no financial assistance.
It’s now August. Think back to January, February, March when these competitions would normally have all been scheduled and we were all in lockdown. Would the competitions take place? If only groups of 6 were allowed per rink, then Fours matches couldn’t be played. If only 30 people were allowed on the green at once, you couldn’t play 6 rink matches such as the Middleton Cup and Johns Trophy
Bowls England had to come up with several plans with a format that would ensure play could go ahead working with and around Covid restrictions. Anyone who goes to work will understand what a nightmare this was. 2 m social distancing, then 1m+ – after everything had been re-arranged for 2m. Face coverings, extra cleaning and sanitising, vaccinations etc. There was a tremendous amount of work put in to get the competitions in as they had to start late thereby reducing the length of the Championships climax at Leamington. Part of the reduction meant that apart from the top 16 counties (those with the most entries), only the winners of each County competition would be able to compete in the Championships. This was of course very disappointing – especially for Cambridge Park with several runners-up.
Look at the hospitality industry. When pubs could open, it was only for outdoors with numbers at tables limited and overall numbers limited. Not everyone rushed out of their houses to go for a pint/wine. It was another month or so later that food could be served and there appeared a variety of gazebos and parasols around our towns as the owners were desperate to get customers back and start earning some money to protect their business and the salaries of their staff. Surviving past 18 months with no income was essential to thousands of livelihoods.
The National Championships are outdoors luckily (well, depending on the weather!), so the distancing isn’t such of a problem. If tickets could be booked for free, there was the danger that the full allocation would be used up and people wouldn’t attend after all. The £4 entry fee (£5 on the gate) is not excessive for a full day’s entertainment. Thorpe Park, the Oval, Wembley, the theatre and cinemas cost considerably more than that!
Bowls England have a good working relationship with Warwickshire Council – this was asked on the zoom. With less entries such no County runners up *sob* and therefore players and supporter numbers being down, how would it affect the Leamington area economy? Apparently, Warwickshire CC are very happy at the way the championships have been organised this year. Last year they had no revenue at all so everyone attending this year, staying at accommodation, eating and drinking out is a welcome boost to the economy.
Jon Cockcroft said lots of people had lumped this year’s formats and Length of finals into alignment of the Commonwealth Games next year and championships needing to start later. He said that was not the case. There hasn’t been another year like 2020 nor 2021 and everyone hopes we don’t have any other years the same.
He stressed that the game is declining in numbers with still many people considering it only for old people (huh!). It is indeed a very good sport for older people; keeping limbs and joints moving; being competitive (despite what people say even at roll ups!); and of course it has many social benefits. However …. we all need to look at new ways for the sport to become more attractive and inclusive to a wider age range and diverse sectors. Maybe this will mean additional competitions or different formats or both? The Open Singles Indoor Circuit was very popular and hopefully will be running again this indoor season. Two 9 end sets and a tie break. This speeds the game up and slow starters may lose the first set but have a chance of starting afresh in the second set. We’ve seen it on tv with the World Indoor Championships. It’s good. It’s different. Whoever thought Test Match Cricket fans would be interested in 20 over matches or the 100? Same sport but different. If small changes attract more people to our sports, isn’t that a good thing ensuring it won’t die out as we 60+s fall off this mortal coil?
I shall stop rambling! The Bowls England survey should be out next week. As players, it is our duty to complete and send back otherwise we can’t moan or complain or say it isn’t fair!
Ann Halliday (Senior Singles) , Tina Cooper (Two Bowl Singles) and Dave Pitt (Singles and Senior Fours) from Cambridge Park are all representing Middlesex at the Nationals. If you can spare a day out and £4 entry fee to go and support them, they will be very pleased to see you! Victoria Park in Leamington is only about 10-15 minutes from the M40. There is a car park on site – £5 I think. It’s an enjoyable day out watching the top bowlers for 2021 – as we all know, it’s ‘all on the day’ and some of this year’s players won’t be there next year although many will. It is an achievement and an honour to represent your County at the Championships, so long may they continue.
(We still have two more hopes with the Ladies Top Club and our National Mixed Fours team.)
As I’ve mentioned competitions, we shall set up the 75 Shots and Bill Holmes Trophy and I’ll put some sign up sheets up. Hopefully one on 21st August and the other on 28th or in September. The Singles championships are being organised by Laurence and he will be able to sort out draws for those soon now there are names up.