Lawn bowls fights Equal Opportunity Tribunal demand to end single-sex competition

Updated 5 hours 7 minutes ago
Photo: Lawn bowlers are fighting an equal opportunity ruling (ABC)
Map: SA

Lawn bowlers are fighting an Equal Opportunity Tribunal ruling the competition in South Australia must abandon single-sex teams.

The Tribunal ruled last year that Bowls SA must abolish separate male and female competitions by 2014 or risk being in breach of the Equal Opportunity Act.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Anne Gale said mixed gender competition was the way forward.

"Only operating single-sex competitions could be discrimination so operating mixed competitions and open competitions is a way around that," she said.

Many of the state's 17,000 bowlers are not opposed to mixed social games, but playing with jack (and jill) is not everyone's cup of tea.

"If you've got the women in the ring you tend to take it a bit more easy and of course your language is curbed down too," one male bowler said.

"Theirs is a different game, believe it or not, it's a much more aggressive game," a woman bowler said.

More than 5,000 lawn bowlers have signed a petition calling for Bowls SA to be allowed to keep running single-gender and mixed competitions.

Lawn Bowls SA general manager Mark Easton hopes to achieve an outcome that shows no bias.

"The primary product would be an open-gender format, so people have a choice to participate in the open format and as the second product having a men's and ladies competition," he said.

"Small clubs need the mixed competition so they can field teams," a bowler told the ABC.

MPs from both sides of the South Australian Parliament are keen to draft legislation which would amend the Equal Opportunity Act: "To reflect all the values in society, not just one main view about gender equity, we need to reflect all cultural and religious views in the sport as well," one MP Leesa Vlahos said.