Open Letter from Bowls Scotland CEO

Dear Members,

This summer has huge potential to showcase our wonderful sport, so it is an extremely exciting time to be involved in bowls.

Following on from the recent announcement of the British Isles calendar of events for 2022, we have received feedback and opinions on the events put in place for this year. I have taken time to read the feedback from some of the most well-respected people in the game and have the upmost respect for their views. I fully understand that the British Isles events are a hugely historic part of bowls and an emotive subject for many.

I hope this Open Letter to members and the wider bowls community helps to clarify the situation.

As I am sure many of you are aware, no British Isles events took place during 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst not having competitive events was frustrating it also enabled all of the nations to review what is delivered at British Isles level. A variety of conversations and meetings have taken place between Scotland, England, Jersey, Guernsey, Ireland and Wales with the main objective being how we can collectively enhance and modernise the game through the various events contested in the British Isles.

In line with our Empowering Women in Bowls programme, a key objective was to ensure that any changes to formats achieved gender equality and equal opportunities for both male and female players. We hope this helps to establish a progressive pathway for upcoming players and create more potential TV/live streaming & sponsorship opportunities. I believe all of these areas will help generate greater exposure for bowls and allow us to showcase the sport to a wider audience.

In reference to the events being delivered this year, we feel 2022 is the ideal opportunity to try out new formats to allow a more focused consultation process with key stakeholders including players, coaches, volunteers and those supporting and delivering events. Our intention is, and always has been, to consult with our members as we progress through this process. Bowls Scotland is a values-driven organisation, and as CEO I am committed to ensuring we work with our membership in a transparent and open way.

To prepare for discussions with the British Isles working group, Bowls Scotland will carry out a consultation process in the coming months. I want to reassure members that nothing has been discussed or finalised for 2023 and beyond.

In terms of competition formats for this year, the 2022 gents and ladies invitational event being organised and hosted by Bowls England plans to feature 3-tiers of competition. Tier 1 for top-level players, Tier 2 for established internationalists and Tier 3 for developing players aspiring to reach the top of our sport. It is not an event solely for elite players as has been suggested.

Other events being delivered this year are a unified men’s and women’s British Isles Championships to recognise the achievements of each nations national champions. The European Championships, hosted by Scotland at the National Centre for Bowling in Ayr, and a new combined Junior International Series for 12 male and 12 female players. There are plenty of opportunities to represent Scotland at various international competitions in 2022.

One final area that I would like to address is comments that ‘Bowls Scotland only focus on High Performance’. This is simply untrue. Whilst winning medals at Commonwealth Games and World Championships is vitally important for raising the profile of bowls, the majority of our time and resources are spent focusing on growing the game at grassroots level and supporting our clubs.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have offered various levels of support to clubs:

  • We set aside £50,000 for a Club Crisis Fund to enable clubs most in need to apply for Grants to help support them through a financially difficult period.
  • Our three National Development Officers, work tirelessly every day to directly support our 834 member clubs.
  • We have and continue to host a wide variety of workshops and coaching courses to help upskill the dedicated volunteers in bowls that we are indebted to.
  • Our Try Bowls and BowlsMark programmes support clubs to attract new members and improve their governance.
  • In 2021, we also launched the Bowls Scotland National Volunteer Awards to recognise and reward those that go above and beyond within their clubs and local communities.

Bowls Scotland is committed to working in partnership with clubs to grow our wonderful game and we aim to continue to provide this level of support and resource to the grassroots level of bowls in the future.

Finally, I would like to make it absolutely clear, no funds that Bowls Scotland receive from clubs whether it be annual affiliation fees or competition entry fees goes towards funding High Performance. The High Performance programme is funded solely from our sportscotland investment which is ringfenced specifically for this area. Any funds we receive from clubs goes back into resources and services that directly support and benefit them.

I understand and appreciate the range of emotions felt since the announcement, but I hope this helps to clarify the current situation. I am fully aware that actions speak louder than words so please rest assured we are listening, and we will consult before any major decisions are taken that affect the long-term future of the sport.

For now, our full focus is on supporting clubs for the 2022 season commencing. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Yours in Sport 

Alan McMillan

CEO, Bowls Scotland

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