2022 promises to be a golden year for bowls across Britain with the highlight being the Commonwealth Games in Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa.
Over recent months, the Home Nations – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Jersey and Guernsey – have been discussing the long-term future of the British Isles competitions. Whilst discussions have been challenging, all nations are committed to delivering a British competition, which provides the optimal environment to prepare for world level events, whilst supporting the development of international bowlers and officials.
With this commitment, the programme for 2022 has been developed. This schedule ensures that Commonwealth Games preparation is protected, whilst also being sensitive to the busy calendar including the launch of a new-look European Championships. Everyone acknowledges the importance and benefit of Home Nations competition, whilst also accepting the need to move forward with a new approach.
England has offered to host a Home Nations event in 2022 at Royal Leamington Spa that includes both male and female events being played together at the same time and same venue. Nations have been invited to compete as one team, with separate male and female events and in a format which better mirrors international competition globally, with all four disciplines played.
Recognising the need to reward our National Champions, the British Isles Championships will return to Llandrindod Wells, Wales, at the end of June. This will also be a unified event involving the male and female National Champions from each nation and designed to strengthen its profile in an important year. Nations will be able to send one champion per format, with 2019, 2020 or 2021 champions eligible for selection. Each country will decide how to select their representative; Bowls England will hold a playoff between our 2019 and 2021 champions to decide our representatives, and those concerned have been contacted directly.
With the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, and a desire to provide top level competition in 2022, the European Championships will take place in Ayr between the 9-14 July. The England squad for these championships will be separate from the Games squad.
Finally, a combined Junior International Series will take place in Belmont, Belfast, on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September with each country selecting a team of 12 men and 12 women to participate in a six-rink international series featuring England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. All those aged 27 and under on 1st April 2022 will be eligible for selection.
In 2023, the hope is to launch a new Home Nations event. Discussions on the specifics of this event are ongoing, with a cross-nation working party to be set up. This group will have one representative from each nation. Everyone acknowledges, however, that the future approach needs to be dual gender; meet the development objectives of each nation; strengthen and preserve the tradition of the Home Nations competing against each other as one nation; allow for the development of future international players; and provide quality international competition that is reflective of the changes to the sport at world level.
Further details on plans for 2023 will be announced in due course.