Clubs are the heartbeat of our sport and their local community. The Club of the Year Award showcases the exceptional innovation and resilience combined with implementing creative strategies to ensure a clubs survival and growth. We celebrate clubs which go above and beyond to create vibrant, inclusive communities both on and off the green, recognising the outstanding efforts of clubs that have embraced their role as community hubs, creating a positive impact. 

Below are the list of clubs which have been shortlisted for the Club of the Year Award at the Bowls England Awards 2023.

Erdington Court BC (Warwickshire)

In the face of challenges such as the aftermath of COVID-19 and rising energy prices, the club has not only maintained its financial stability but has excelled in various aspects. Despite financial pressures, the club were able to invest in decor, honours boards, and major outdoor refurbishments, enhancing its appeal. Membership recruitment remained active, with successful participation in Bowls Big Weekend.

Competitive success has been a hallmark, with the men winning the Birmingham Bowling Association’s top league for seven consecutive years. The women’s performance has also shown notable improvement. The club boasts four newly qualified level 1 coaches, after hosting a level 1 training programme ran by Coach Bowls. A successful community links program has fostered diversity and inclusion, and the club was the first in Birmingham to run Warm Welcome Spaces, approved by the city council.

A weekly Bowls For Health programme has attracted many players who may not have became members, increasing the visibility of the club. Developing valuable partnerships with local organisations has led to the purchase of £3,000 of mobility and junior equipment, allowing people with disabilities, suffering from long term illnesses and children to attend sessions at the club.

The club’s commitment to social events and charity initiatives resulted in raising over £2,000 for local causes and working closely with the local Parkinson’s UK support group, breast cancer support and local special needs schools.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2025, the club stands as the only indoor and outdoor club in Birmingham, a registered charity in an officially defined deprived area. With no paid staff other than a cleaner, the club relies on the dedication and commitment of over 30-40% of the club members. Strong local support, social media presence, and community engagement have elevated the club’s visibility and impact in the local community in the last 12 months.

Ilfracombe BC (Devon)

With the real possibility of closure, Ilfracombe not only survived by excelled throughout the 2023 season, becoming a shining example of resilience and growth. Losing key players, battling with low membership, and facing financial challenges, the club’s turnaround is a testament to the remarkable efforts of individuals like Neil Mugleston, the club captain, and Barry Gifford, the club president and the club committee. Within a year, they transformed the club into a vibrant community hub with 83 playing members and a target of 100 by the new year.

Their success lies in a one-club philosophy, embracing fun, friendship, fitness, and well-being. They managed to bridge the generational gap, shifting the average age from mid-60s to mid-40s, with an equal mix of genders. The introduction of various playing sessions, morning to evening, helped retain outdoor members through the winter, doubling membership income.

The club’s competitive yet friendly approach, only losing one friendly match, attracted positive attention. Drawing in three young men and rekindling interest in another, all appreciating the club’s friendly and family-oriented values. The club’s success story has resonated beyond, with other clubs seeking their advice and support.

They’ve not only revitalised the club internally but also reached out to the community, inviting various groups to use the facilities and encouraging local businesses to engage. Their proactive approach in sponsorship, social media, and community involvement has transformed the club’s image from a hidden gem to the talk of the town.

The club’s commitment to inclusivity and camaraderie is further exemplified by their fundraising for a junior player in need of new bowls. Their journey from near-closure to a thriving, inclusive community hub showcases the transformative power of change and a forward-thinking approach in ensuring the future success of the club.

Maldon BC (Essex)

Maldon Bowling Club has enjoyed an outstanding year, achieving success both on and off the green. On the green, Maldon BC has flourished in the men’s Chelmsford and District League, the Central Midweek mixed league and club champion, Andrew Squire, who became Essex county champion for the eighth time this year was part of the Essex team that retained the Balcomb trophy at the Aviva National Finals.

The club’s involvement with the local school, introducing bowls to the PE curriculum, saw participation from students who don’t normally enjoy PE and were reluctant to participate in traditional school sports. It wasn’t only the students impacted, with 22 members of staff attending the club for sessions.

John Rawlinson, the safeguarding officer, received recognition for his contributions to public safety and first aid training. Raising money to buy a defibrilator and having dozens of fully trained members who are able to respond to an emergency exemplifies their dedication to public safety.

The innovative approach to recruiting new members, especially through Bowls Big Weekend, reflects a commitment to showcasing bowls as an inclusive activity for all ages and abilities, with a rise in membership of 30%.

Notably, the club’s green has significantly improved and has become a sought-after venue for local and higher-level competitions. The club has excelled in maintaining high standards, achieving a gold medal for the best community garden and an environmental care award. The quality of the playing surface has attracted experienced bowlers, contributing to a significant rise in membership. Beyond the green, the club’s year-round clubhouse activities, from cards and bingo to gardening and a ukulele band, demonstrate a vibrant and inclusive community spirit.

The welcoming and relaxed atmosphere tied with their multifaceted approach to success, encompassing sportsmanship, community engagement, and environmental stewardship has made Maldon Bowling Club an integral part of the town of Maldon.

Potten End BC (Hertfordshire)

Potten End Bowls Club has undergone a remarkable transformation marked by innovation and adaptability, resulting in notable successes. The most significant shift was a move from paper-based operations to embracing Bowls Manager, a cutting-edge online system, streamlining match and team selection processes, saving time, and enhancing efficiency.

The club’s membership strategy underwent substantial enhancement, with an innovative approach to open days, including Bowls Big Weekend. A record 50 individuals tried bowls, and a meticulous follow-up plan, including coaching sessions and the provision of club shirts, resulted in an outstanding 29 new playing members and 7 social members. The success rate rocketed, showing in a 100% increase in new players participating in matches and club activities, with the youngest member 16 and the eldest 92.

Recognising the importance of member retention, especially with the influx of new joiners, the introduction of mentors became a pivotal step. Each new member is paired with a mentor to ensure a smooth integration into the club, understand online systems, and engage in club activities. The mentorship system has played a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging and participation among members.

In tandem with these changes, the club underwent a comprehensive rebranding process, including a revamped website and a new logo. The new branding created a cohesive and modern identity. The club’s commitment to sponsorship, offering tailored packages, resulted in 11 sponsors, with the inaugural sponsors’ event proving a resounding success going into 2024.

The introduction of a new kit, sourced locally with competitive pricing, and corporate days involving local golf clubs demonstrated the club’s commitment to engaging the community and creating a glowing social environment. This comprehensive overhaul, including strategic branding, sponsorship, and community engagement, positions Potten End Bowls Club as a dynamic and forward-thinking club.

West Backwell BC (Somerset)

In the face of potential closure in 2023, West Backwell Bowling Club (WBBC) not only survived but thrived through their innovative community engagement campaign, ‘Thrive With Bowls.’ The aim, to help people thrive with bowls which in turn will enable WBBC to thrive as a club.

The campaign aimed to promote physical activity, reduce loneliness, and improve mental health. The results surpassed expectations, attracting over 600 participants, aged 4-96, during the 2023 season.

WBBC’s success extended beyond the green, securing positive publicity, a Sport England grant, and attracting 16 sponsors. To support new members, a novices section was introduced, culminating in the Novices Open Pairs Tournament, which quickly became oversubscribed.

Individual stories highlight the transformative effect of Thrive with Bowls. Sue, a recent widow, praised the club’s supportive and helpful atmosphere, making her feel comfortable attending sessions alone. Emma, recovering from a severe illness and initially skeptical about bowls, became hooked after just 30 minutes at an open day. Her newfound passion led to winning a Disability Bowls England competition and representing the County within her first season.

Sue and Emma represent a multitude of people positively impacted by WBBC’s initiative, fostering an inclusive, vibrant, and friendly atmosphere while ensuring a sustainable future for the club. Once on the brink of closure, the club now heads into the 2024 season thriving, a testament to the power of community engagement and the positive impact of bowls.

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