• Rejuvenating Bowls Clubs. And Why Pissheads Shouldn't be Office- Bearers


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      Rejuvenating Bowls Clubs.
      Why Pissheads Shouldn’t be Office- Bearers.
      Our club lost some prominent members last season because we’d become ‘too progressive’ in their reckoning. There are those who still doggedly cling onto a quasi Edna Everage Ethos of a 1960s Suburban Bowls Club as the ideal.
      Princess Park is a small club on the ascent, having won 4 pennants in the last three seasons [ RVBA & Bowls World combined]. Not bad for a club with only 55 bowlers on the books. We’ve taken some proactive measures to increase revenue streams which have proven to be a windfall for the club’s coffers.
      But we ruffled some feathers with The Turnaround.
      “This isn’t a proper bowls club.”


      You can’t be all things to all people, this holds true in bowls clubs as it does in most fields of human interaction.
      We formed a partnership with a mob called Fancy Hanks who run a commercial kitchen-Boutique BBQ on site. With a combination of clever marketing and social media these guys are ‘getting bums on seats’ and introducing our club’s facilities to a broader audience. An audience we would never have reached using so called conventional methods. It’s been a win- win arrangement for them and us. On a good weekend the club turns over more in bar sales than what it would have for a whole financial year a little over 6 years ago [ that’s a staggering turn around ]. And the atmosphere created by the dinners and the numbers barefoot bowling makes for some enjoyable-lively weekends, albeit some very busy ones.
      Crowds which a small membership like ours struggles to cope with at times.
      But it’s a problem a lot of bowls clubs would like to have.


      Over the years I’ve come across a number of Eddie McGuire wannabes nominating themselves for their club‘s presidency. Their principle qualifications being enjoying hearing the sound of their own voices. And those clubs headed by these types invariably subscribe to a modus operandi which centres around blokes boozing on and taking turns in regurgitating tales of kitty trailing- “ did I ever tell you about that game when they were holding 6 and I trailed the kitty into the ditch with my last bowl” during ad breaks.


      Thankfully those types don’t get a look in at Princess Park.
      We’ve got a no nonsense woman overseeing the club’s direction, a direction which the majority of our members believe is an exciting path to be travelling in. She is steadfast about running with an alternative model, albeit one which has alienated some members along the way.
      Our President, Ann Taylor held former positions as Australian Education Union Deputy President alongside a stint as President of Victoria Trades Hall Council. She’s been an integral member of a quasi Gang of Four in the transformation of our club.
      A ‘ misogynist ocker-boozer element’ tried to oust her last year in a half baked coup attempt- “this is no longer a proper bowls club, she doesn’t understand bowls.”
      Well what she did understand was that a handful of blokes boozing on within earshot of the club’s entrance wasn’t a good look in attracting potential new members. The majority of our members understood that we had a woman of substance at the helm. And backed her as she showed the fortitude and stomach to hold her ground and see off this unwanted advance. I’ve facetiously compared her to the original Iron Lady- Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to squash the British Trade Union movement.
      I don’t know if she’d appreciate this analogy .
      But I’ve nicknamed her Princess Park’s Iron Lady.
      What these blokes consider a “proper bowls club” no longer cuts it in the rapidly changing demographics of our inner city Melbourne location. Think outside the square, make some bold changes and run with it. Running with the old adage, ‘fortune favours the brave’ has seen our club kick both fiscal and on green goals these last few seasons.


      60% of our total membership are currently Social Members.
      We’ve created such an enjoyable atmosphere at Princess Park that people are walking in off the street and deciding to join up. Yes we’re mindful that our task is to convert these social members into full bowling members. But at least we’ve got something to work with. Creating the right atmosphere is paramount to enticing new members.
      And those clubs held to ransom by a staunch drinking element who dominate proceedings are limiting themselves and narrowing their options. Just because a core group of members are putting most of the money across the bar, doesn’t necessarily mean they know what’s best for the future of the club. Excessive drinking and strategic planning aren’t exactly ideal bedfellows !
      “But I can’t find the teacups in the kitchen. They’ve moved them. We’ve always kept the teacups in that bottom draw.”
      Yes, a bowls club can’t be all things to all bowlers. But those clubs coping with fiscal pressures and not attracting new members will invariably have to bite the bullet. And decide in which direction to steer the club’s future. A future which may disconcert some but will hopefully benefit the majority, and more importantly The Club.
      The blokes who can regale the bar with witty tales of their on green exploits aren’t necessarily those best suited or qualified to take on roles of responsibility at clubs.
      In my experience it’s the no nonsense types who invariably eschew the limelight who are effective administrators and do invaluable work behind the scenes at their clubs. Unfortunately their efforts are all too often poo hoed by the Eddie Maguire Wannabes and their hangers on- disciples.


      Yes, you can’t be all things to all people. There are those afraid of change . But I suspect many more bowls clubs will face the prospect of mounting financial pressures and invariably folding if they aren’t willing to embrace change. Bowls clubs set in a Menzies era time warp will invariably find it more and more difficult to engage with local communities and potential audiences in the future.

      Princess Park’s Iron Lady. Our president understands the changing demographics of the neighbourhood and how best to capitalize on them.
      And this strategy is paying dividends at Princess Park.


      Denis ‘the red’ Evans- A staunch True Believer.
      He gave the ALP away around the time Al Grasby lost his seat of Griffiths.
      But he’s a True Believer when it comes to The Iron Lady’s presidency.
      As a footnote, Al Grasby would have approved of our multicultural membership mix.
      His visionary policies are at play today at Princess Park, where a historically staunch Anglo Celtic domain has embraced and integrated our eclectic mix of superannuated wogs.


      One of the Gang of Four, Sean Doyle. An engaging raconteur and current Singles Champion. The former Bush Whacker’s commitment to the club’s rejuvenation is second to none.




      The Princess Park Dream Team- From Left- Peter ‘ professor’ Green,
      Paul ‘pain in the ass’ Soldatich, Peter ‘perfect’ Parussolo and Giulio ‘father of the pain in the ass’ Soldatich.


      Unlike Red Dennis, Ivan Gaal is the antithesis of a True Believer. When you‘re weaned and forced fed Bolshevik Clap Trap as a child one invariably rebels.
      At 76 the former Wrestler, Canoeist and Filmmaker is still ‘hungry’ to learn new tricks and in Princess Park’s progressive and supportive environment has blossomed.
      Alongside Chris Smith won The club’s men’s pairs this year.
      Comments 9 Comments
      1. Swifty's Avatar
        Swifty -
        “But I can’t find the teacups in the kitchen. They’ve moved them. We’ve always kept the teacups in that bottom draw.”

        Ah yes, the perfect example of the two basic laws of bowls clubs:
        1. We've always done it this way, so it can't possibly be done any other way.
        2. We've never done it before, so we can't possibly do it now.

        Yours is not a unique situation. We have social groups hiring our hall or BBQ or having a barefoot roll-up, and spending heaps over the bar. I constantly hear our old dinosaur members saying "It's not our club any more." Well, my answer to them is that without these outside groups we wont have a club at all in a couple of years.

        Yes, the piss-heads who want to do nothing more than prop up the bar still have a place in the club, and good luck to them. Their financial contributions are welcome. But they have to make room for the new members coming in and realise that that's where the future of the club lies.

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      1. Fabrizio Marsani's Avatar
        Fabrizio Marsani -
        I dare say quite a few bowls clubs are going to have to bite the bullet on a few of these issues if they wish to survive. I don't mind pissheads with character. They add a bit of colour and spark to a club. We've got a bloke called Paul Soldatich, a self confessed pisshead. I don't know if our members could handle half a dozen of his ilk though !

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      1. TheHorse's Avatar
        TheHorse -
        Having bowled for 25 years i have seen many clubs come and go.So called pissheads or social drinkers can bring a club to its knee's but i have seen more clubs distroyed by committees and members who believe that they are more importent then 75% of the members. It is the pissheads or social drinkers that have to pick the club back up and get it back to the great club it was.Yes some pissheads are a disgrace and belong in a pub. Never think you are better then the members as the members will bite you back.

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      1. noddy's Avatar
        noddy -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by TheHorse Click here to enlarge
        Having bowled for 25 years i have seen many clubs come and go.So called pissheads or social drinkers can bring a club to its knee's but i have seen more clubs distroyed by committees and members who believe that they are more importent then 75% of the members. It is the pissheads or social drinkers that have to pick the club back up and get it back to the great club it was.Yes some pissheads are a disgrace and belong in a pub. Never think you are better then the members as the members will bite you back.
        Unfortunately many on committees think they have the power and right to make decisions that should be put before the members first.

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      1. mountain man's Avatar
        mountain man -
        Members have the opportunity to nominate for committee if they wish to contribute to the running of the club.

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      1. David South's Avatar
        David South -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by noddy Click here to enlarge

        Unfortunately many on committees think they have the power and right to make decisions that should be put before the members first.
        This is a very tricky issue.

        Strictly speaking a Board of Management (whatever it is called) has the power to run the Club. This is necessary - you can't have meetings with the members on every issue that comes up. The general safeguard is that the Board Members are elected by the members, so if they do anything the members really don't like, they will be voted off.


        However, a lot of clubs are going backwards, and need to change to survive. In a Club where the majority of the members are old, and don't like change, it can be difficult to have people elected who will bring about change. Yes, you will have to start running a "public green" and hiring the place out to paying customer (who will also take up space on the green), and yes, some members will feel that this means that some of the time there will be strangers in their club, and it won't feel the same. I'm afraid you just have to convince a majority of members that the change is necessary, even though there will be some disadvantages to it. I have seen two examples in the last 20 years of someone with progressive ideas coming into the Middle Park club, getting themselves elected, but failing to convince the older members that the changes were necessary. They were voted out very quickly. (one was a well known ex forumite who skipped in Kew Heights Div 1 flag winning side last season).

        Having said that, it is also necessary for the people with the new broom to understand how Clubs work, and not try to simply apply a business model that would be appropriate in a profit making company. The primary purpose of a Club is to provide an appropriate environment for it's members, not to make a profit -though it can't for long run at a loss. That has huge implications for the way it has to be run, and often people from a business background, without substantial Club involvement, won't realize this.

        You have to find someone who can steer the club to changes, without losing sight of the features of clubs that have to be retained, while convincing members to support the process. If Princes Park have found such a person, good luck to them. But it's not easy, and not everyone can do it.

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      1. Fabrizio Marsani's Avatar
        Fabrizio Marsani -
        The most recent office bearers at Princes Park have done a great job in implementing some pro active measures. But as can be expected a few fossils weren't too happy with the changes. Just for the record, Blair Perin was a integral member of our Gang of Four. I'd like to think that your visionary work at St Kilda was in many ways the catalyst to the rejuvenation we are experiencing at Princes Park David. Blair was paying attention !

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      1. TheHorse's Avatar
        TheHorse -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by mountain man Click here to enlarge
        Members have the opportunity to nominate for committee if they wish to contribute to the running of the club.
        Your 100% correct Mountain man but not everyone has the time to stand on committe's but help with social events or other thing around the club. So having said that we nominate who we think will do a good job.

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      1. michaelw's Avatar
        michaelw -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by TheHorse Click here to enlarge
        Your 100% correct Mountain man but not everyone has the time to stand on committe's but help with social events or other thing around the club. So having said that we nominate who we think will do a good job.
        That is so often a cop-out, it's not funny. You don't need to be on a committee to effect change - you need to put your shoulder to the wheel and quit bitching.

        Far too many people are too happy to sit back, take pot shots and not "put up or shut up". Similarly, if you do have the inclination to put your money where your mouth is and stand for a committee position you can often be stymied by the remaining old guard committee folk or (more unlikely) not get voted in IF a ballot is needed.

        Like governments, we get the committees we deserve and if you can't be bothered running or encouraging others to run (those that would be good value) then you'll get a "no contest" and get just enough nominations to cover your positions.

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