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Tinkering with Pennant in Victoria

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New opportunities need to be investigated


Lawn bowls in many States is in a critical situation mainly due to attrition, ageing and dying memberships are not being replaced by new members and most haven't adequately taken up programs of Corporate/Xmas Party/Soiree bowls and have opted for 'give away' Barefoot Bowls Friday nights.
A lot of clubs argue that they are not in a demographic that will allow them to capitalise on social bowls programs like a St Kilda, Middle Park, COM, FVBC or RUBC. This is a complete furphy - all clubs can add value to their bottom line using Social bowls as a hook. MY POV should become obvious as you read on.

"Barefoot Bowls"

Opening your doors

Victoria has gone against these trends mainly driven by the influences of a good number of inner city clubs that have not only grown their memberships over the last 12
years or so, but have also contributed to growth of many other clubs as players have moved on, sadly a lot of clubs just do not get it and that in itself is a major hold back to a potentially boom sport. St Kilda alone would have spat out at least 20 sides of bowlers that are playing elsewhere now. Most bowlers can't visualise the success of say St Kilda, the contrast is so vivid they are a Fellini movie in comparison to most clubs that are 80% vacant most of the time.

Unlike 12 years ago if you asked someone in Melbourne if they had tried bowls they simply say "You have to be kidding, when I'm 80, maybe!" or "That's a sport for old people, no way!" or " I love watching it on TV, but would I play, no...".

NOW it is a different story where most say "Yeah, love it, played at Xmas." or "I've done that, its so much fun!", But always positive! 10,000's have experienced the game over the last 12 years, crossing them over hasn't really been a stumping point for clubs with rich programs in mainly inner city and suburbs of Melbourne.

I believe that a percentage of all of these will come to the game over time as the seed has been sown. More clubs that set up fruitful programs in the future will have a direct influence on how many join our pennant ranks over the coming years, but it isn't the answer to a broader conversion rate to Pennant...and as we all know we have a level of participation ceiling as we only have so much green space on a Saturday for pennant anyway (not that mornings and evenings couldn't be used to run extra Saturday pennants should demand increase, eh?) So we need to use more of our facilities more often.

My experience and research over the last 12 years tells me that once converted ALL those unconvinced newbies that join a club and agree to play pennant would EAT a bowl and loved pennant as it was, coming back into the game after 2 years away I see a very bad trend developing where restructuring of the game is being handled at best poorly with a hint of Henny Pennyism.

The BIGGEST flaw is that most club's committees have an uncompromising attitude to change, stiff necks not wanting strangers roaming around their cherished clubhouses, clubs that are museums for lawn bowls not vibrant sports is the current bowlers mainly that seem to be the actual problem in initiating change at any club. Truthfully it has to be done club by club though with tailored programs for their local demographic attire and footwear, hanging on to hat rules and many other anachronisms. Get rid of them all, become the Village Green!

The growth of the game has nothing at all to do with the Pennant and championship structures...there is nothing wrong with our game at any level, but new opportunities are begging. Talking to Rosemary Varty after the Division 1 GF presentations she expressed to me her support for changes to Pennant to "freshen up" the game. I reject that idea completely! Growth is gained elsewhere, not fiddling with established practices. SO many events have simply disappeared through laziness at all levels with in the clubs in BV and BV themselves.

Decreasing rink numbers

If they trial 3 rinks in Prem next year it will only affect 10 clubs, but 40 players will be pushed down and disgruntled. If they do it in Div 1 that is 320 and so on down the line...thousands of deflated bowlers can not be a good result!

An up side is that a clubs with 2 greens could conceivably 8 home and away 3 rink sides, 216 players on the green. 192 if you have 6 x 16 player teams. Considering the state of the game at the moment it is an inconsequential number.

I explain how I think we can capitalise on current Melbournian popularity of the game in my next Blog.


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Updated 06-04-2014 at 04:39 PM by Editor

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