Board discusses the Future of National Competitions as playing numbers increase for the second consecutive year.

21st December, 2023

At its November meeting, the Bowls England board discussed the recommendations proposed by the Competitions Working Party for changes to the programme from 2025. The changes would see the elevation of the Blue Riband events, greater accessibility to relevant competition for players and clubs not currently participating and more alignment of some events with the international pathway. The board were comfortable with the level of consultation and supported the direction of travel.

The recommendations were discussed at the Counties’ Conference the following day with more detail being worked up ahead of the AGM in February. A further meeting with County Associations will take place before Christmas.

The Board also approved an action plan to take forward the work undertaken by an agency called Governance United, who conducted an independent evaluation of the Bowls England Board’s performance. The overall finding was that Bowls England has “a highly capable and committed Board supported by a small but hard-working and effective executive team.” That said, there were recommendations about how the organisation’s governance could be enhanced, which the Board agreed to take forward.

These included –

  • Continuing the shift from operational to strategic input from the Board
  • Working towards increased diversity on the Board, including recruitment independent directors who understood audiences we want to attract to our sport.
  • More active management of conflicts of interest
  • More training and development opportunities for Board members

The Board discussed the 2022/23 financial year end with forecasts indicating a deficit of £245k in line with the revised forecast presented in June. A discussion took place on the importance of returning the budget to break even after several years of investment of reserves, and the challenges of doing this.

The Board received an update on the operational work of the staff team over the preceding 2 months. Key points to note include –

  • The 2023 affiliation process has now been completed. The number of affiliated bowlers has increased by 1.4%, the second consecutive year of growth.
  • Project groups have been assembled for delivering Bowls’ Big Weekend and Bowls Bash in 2024, which include representatives from the Bowls Development Alliance.
  • The Annual Awards nominations have more than doubled with 304 nominations being received across the categories.
  • The Aviva National Finals schedule for 2024 has been developed ahead of the National Competitions being open for entry at the start of December.
  • Clashes have been avoided as much as possible.
  • The Celebration Match programme for 2024 has been finalised and player nominations are underway.
  • Progress is being made on a new Performance and Player Pathway Strategy with the support of an industry expert. Significant consultation has taken place and the strategy will be presented to the Board in February.
  • Vikki Underwood has joined the team as Head of Business Operations replacing Helen Slimm, who departed after 10 years of service. We are continuing to recruit for the Governance and Compliance Officer and People Officer roles.
  • The staff team has completed its office move following the closure of Riverside House. The new office is situated in first floor of the tennis pavilion in Victoria Park. This will be announced formally soon.
  • The 2023/24 Operational Plan and Budget has now been planned out for the year and all staff Annual Performance Reviews have been completed.

Finally, the Chief Executive shared proposals from World Bowls on a new global events programme. This includes reverting to a World Championships every four years, the introduction of a new World Cup competition and the development of a global player rankings system. The Board discussed the importance of this being affordable and ensuring it was consistent with our strategic ambitions.

Please click here for the full minutes from the Board Meeting on 24 November 2023, and also the session with Governance United on 7 November 2023 by clicking here.

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