I am pleased to present this Annual Report on behalf of the Board of Bowls England.
Following the changes to our organisational structure approved at the Special General Meeting in November 2017, we welcomed two new Directors to the Board – Dr Anna Molony (Independent) and John McGuinness (Coaching) at the 2018 AGM. Our former Independent Director, Adam Tanner, also took on the newly-created role of Director of Development.
The changes saw the introduction of Directors with Portfolios and the ability for the Board to appoint Working Parties to undertake specific tasks and, in doing so, bring in relevant personnel with the required skills. Several working parties have already provided a valuable contribution over the last 12 months, particularly in the areas of competitive events, disciplinary and governance, and we thank all those who have assisted to date.
The other significant addition was the creation of an Audit & Review Committee. This Committee is facilitated by our Independent Director and consists of representatives of our four geographic regions – Tony Ellis (Essex), Foster Johnson (Durham), Kath Lloyd (Wiltshire) and Ken Woodcock (Sussex). Foster Johnson was elected as Chair of the Committee, and it works to provide constructive feedback to the Board on various topics.
The new structure is underpinned by the Regional Meetings, which are now a firm fixture in the Bowls England calendar and provide a welcome opportunity for constructive communication between Bowls England and our County Associations. At this year’s Regional Meetings, whilst there were some variances across the country, there was general agreement amongst attendees on the key challenges facing our sport – communication, participation and additional support for clubs and county associations – and it is these areas that the Board will be focussing on over the coming years.
Already, in response to the feedback at Regional Meetings, we are in the process of recruiting a new staff member – Club & County Support Advisor – who will provide ‘hands-on’ assistance to our affiliated members, initially on a two-year contract. Responsibilities for this new role will be wide-ranging, but we expect them to play a key role in the continuing development of our Membership Register. This additional resource will be vital given the increasing workload that we now face at national level, especially in the areas of constitutions, disciplinary, data protection, safeguarding and facilities.
At the time of writing, we have also started work on a new-look website, which will provide improved communication to our members and help us to promote the sport more positively to potential participants.
Another key objective for the Board is to secure suitable office accommodation within the Royal Leamington Spa area. Warwick District Council recently announced that any decision on its current headquarters, Riverside House, in which our offices are currently located, has been deferred until July this year. It is therefore highly likely that office accommodation will remain available to Bowls England at Riverside House for the immediate future, however we will continue to monitor the local property market for potential sites.
On the personnel side, 2018 saw the departure of Tom Millership who left after five years’ service to take on a new role, and Amy Walters who is currently on maternity leave following the birth of her son, Archie. We were pleased to welcome to the team Lee Rowland as Tom’s full-time replacement, and John Hughes as maternity cover for Amy.
Looking forward, and 1st April 2019 will see the Bowls England and the English Indoor Bowling Association Ltd (EIBA) taking responsibility for Coach Bowls from the Bowls Development Alliance (BDA). A great deal of work has been undertaken over the last 12 months to ensure a smooth transition for coaches, players and clubs. Adam Durnin is already the administrative lead for Coach Bowls, and Amanda Scriven-Purcell will transfer to the ‘new’ Coach Bowls from the BDA. Amanda is already based in the Bowls England office alongside Adam as part of the transitional arrangements.
In addition to Coach Bowls, we continue to work closely with the EIBA in a number of areas including safeguarding and facilities, and it is evident that both organisations benefit from the sharing of resources and skills, particularly within our respective staff teams.
Increasing participation will be a key focus for Bowls England, and we continue to work in conjunction with the BDA towards this goal. The BDA Club Development Programme has already seen some very impressive results, and I would encourage all clubs that meet the criteria to take up the opportunity to sign up for support.
Looking back, an early highlight of 2018 was the annual Bowls England Week at Potters Resort in Norfolk. We continue to invest resources into supporting the week so that it ‘stands out’ from the many other breaks offered at Potters Resort during the year. The event provides an excellent opportunity to meet with our members, including many who do not have regular contact with Bowls England, and to pass on practical coaching advice to help players to improve their game at one of the many ‘masterclass’ sessions. The event also generates significant commission-based income for Bowls England.
The National Championships in August were once again widely regarded as a success. I must take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to the event with particular reference to the staff team, volunteers (including markers and umpires) and Warwick District Council without whose efforts the 30 days would just not be possible.
On the playing front, the major international event of the year was the Commonwealth Games. Whilst none of England’s representatives struck gold, congratulations are due to our Men’s Singles (Robert Paxton), Men’s Fours (Louis Ridout, David Bolt, Jamie Chestney and Sam Tolchard) and Women’s Triples (Katherine Rednall, Ellen Falkner and Sian Honnor) who achieved Bronze Medals in their respective events.
The conclusion of the Gold Coast Games means the countdown to Birmingham 2022 is now on, when Victoria Park in Royal Leamington Spa will host the Lawn Bowls events. Warwick District Council has appointed a Project Officer in the lead-up to the event, who is working closely with all key stakeholders including Bowls England. It is already evident that the Commonwealth Games will have an impact on our National Championships scheduling in 2022, and possibly in the preceding years, but at this stage discussions are ongoing. More details will be reported to County Associations and members once confirmed.
At the time of writing, and following a review of our results at the Gold Coast, Bowls England is in the process of recruiting a High Performance Director who will take charge of our preparations for the 2022 Games. The successful candidate will be responsible for all elite events, but will be required to liaise closely with the International Selection Committees.
On the international front, both the Junior and Senior Women won their respective International Series’. This year the Senior Women travel to Jersey, and the Junior Women and Senior Men to Scotland. The Junior Men’s Series will be held at Essex County BC, Essex, and it would be great to see a large home support. This is a great opportunity to see our sport played at the highest level and I know that the players selected would be appreciative of your support during these events.
As with many sports, volunteers continue to provide the backbone of bowls at all levels, and I must thank each and every one of you for your efforts – whether that be as a green keeper, administrative officer, umpire, coach or any other role. In recognition of the sport’s reliance on volunteers, Bowls England has been delighted to make funding available to clubs and individual members in support of their attendance on recognised courses including safeguarding, greens maintenance and coaching. We will endeavour to increase this provision over the coming years, subject to available resource.
Clubs and County Associations remain the mainstay of the sport, and one of our key roles as your National Governing Body is to offer guidance and advice to our Members. In doing so, the past year has proved to be particularly challenging. We have dealt with a large increase of disciplinary cases that have regrettably reached national level, and offered advice in this area to many other clubs to assist them in reaching a decision on such matters. In light of some of the issues raised, we will be reviewing Regulation 9 in the coming months.
Our Civil Liability Insurance service continues to provide a significant benefit for all our affiliated members. Bowls England is only able to obtain such advantageous rates due to the economies of scale to be achieved from such a large take up. In return Sutton Winson continues to provide significant cost savings which, for many clubs, far outweighs the cost of affiliation. I take this opportunity to encourage all of our members to ensure that their insurance needs are met ahead of the 2019 season.
Whilst Bowls England recorded another surplus in 2018, it must be remembered that a large percentage of this can be attributed to the savings achieved by the relocation to Royal Leamington Spa and particularly the financial benefits currently enjoyed by our agreement for office accommodation within Riverside House. I remind you that we also continue to receive regular income from our former headquarters in Worthing. The ongoing financial support from The Friends of English Bowling, Sutton Winson Insurance and all of our commercial sponsors is greatly appreciated, and helps us to maintain the positive financial position that has enabled the Board to once again recommend no increase in the Affiliation Fee for 2020.
Finally, in preparing this Annual Report, the Chair of Bowls England wished me to formally record his sincere thanks to all who continue to contribute to Bowls England and our sport as a whole – whether it is at club, county, national or international level. In doing so, it would be remiss not to highlight the work of County Administrators who provide a vital link between Bowls England and our clubs. Mention must also go to those County Authorised Representatives who will be standing down at the AGM in February 2019. All are volunteers and fulfil their duties to the best of their ability.
The Chair also wished me to thank his fellow Directors, all of whom continue to give their time and expertise freely to serve you all, the Staff Members who demonstrate their commitment to Bowls England throughout the year and our Presidential Team, which is in many ways the public face of Bowls England and travel several thousand miles to attend Celebration Matches and International Events in addition to their support of the National Championships.
As Chief Executive I am personally very proud of the efforts of everyone involved in supporting Bowls England over the past 12 months and look forward to building on this success on behalf of our members in 2019.
Tony Allcock OBE Chief Executive – Bowls England