Bowls clubs in jeopardy as national and county season is cancelled

Kevin Fitzgerald of Wanstead Central at the Essex County Bowls Club

Kevin Fitzgerald of Wanstead Central at the Essex County Bowls Club - Credit: Archant

Smaller clubs in Essex could struggle to survive

John Tully of Essex County Bowls is a worried man

John Tully of Essex County Bowls is a worried man - Credit: Archant

The future of some of our bowls clubs may well be thrown into question after the sport closed down because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following a meeting of Bowls England two weeks ago, all national competitions have been cancelled for 2020.

And with county competitions leading to National Finals at Leamington at the end of the summer that means they have been cancelled as well.

John Tully, the county competition secretary said: “Once Bowls England made their announcement following government advice, the counties had little choice but to follow suit.

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“Our county competitions start in May in order to qualify for the national competitions and there is no way we will be able to get back on to the greens by then.

“We have delayed a decision on the lesser county events like the secretary’s cup, the county shield and the unbadged singles until the end of June, but we may have to cancel those too.”

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Other than war time, this is the first year that the county events will not be held since it began in 1909.

There was no competition between 1914-16 and 1940-44, but the singles did return in 1945 when it was won by an Ilford bowler.

Perhaps the more serious side of these decisions could be on the smaller clubs in the area.

“The big clubs like Wanstead Central, Romford and Essex County will certainly survive, but I have serious concerns for some of the smaller clubs,” said John.

“I know that the council has already shut down all the greens in Thurrock and there is already talk about them not coming back.

“Our clubs have been struggling for members for a long time and this may well be the year when people think they will no longer bother to renew and that would be a real shame.”

It means the chance of overthrowing Andy Squirem the six-time county singles champion will have to wait for another year, while club officers like President Sandy Dron from the Upminster club, and deputy president Dave King of Romford BC will remain in office until 2021.

“These are difficult times with nobody being able to play bowls,” said Tully. “All we can hope for is that the virus subsides more quickly than some are suggesting.”

Whether that is in time for some of the clubs in Essex remains to be seen.

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