Bowls WA Strategic Plan

Background

Bowls WA has 217 affiliated clubs with approximately 20,000 capitated bowlers. The number of capitated bowlers has reduced from more than 35,000 capitated members in 1983 as a result of the trends in sport toward less formalised competitions and increased participation in seniors and veterans competitions in other sports such as hockey and football. The major focus of the Strategic Facilities Plan is to create club facilities which enable greater participation in the sport of bowls. The plan is a framework to guide clubs, Bowls WA and local government authorities toward sustainable club practices with increased participation rates.

The plan provides an indicative development of a hierarchy of clubs in both the metropolitan and country areas up to the year 2031. This is based on the development of a competition hierarchy which reflects the elite level competitions that are currently developing in the sport, the existing pennant competition and growing community (corporate or social) competitions. For the sport of bowls to grow it needs to embrace and promote the variety of participation competitions that exists in the sport from social players to Commonwealth Games representatives. Bowls has the potential to rival tennis and golf for participation and diversity of competitors from juniors through to seniors and veterans.

The previous Strategic Facilities Plan was focused on amalgamation of clubs and not the growth of the sport to make clubs more sustainable and financially self-sufficient. There are numerous initiatives which can be undertaken by individual clubs to improve sustainability and self-sufficiency. For the sport of bowls to regrow its membership, alternative actions need to be taken. Actions include refining the pennant competition structure, creating an elite club competition and formalising community bowls competitions between clubs.

The issues

Whilst the majority of bowls facilities are well used and play a role in supporting other sport and recreational activity and community uses, nearly all facilities could accommodate increased utilisation of sporting infrastructure (greens) and other facilities such as clubhouse and function areas. Clubs that are able to maximise the use of facilities generate sufficient revenues from which the club can more easily provide the required facilities and infrastructure for club members. Clubs which do not attract new users and new competition participants will struggle financially. Not attracting new users and resulting revenue are unsustainable club practices.

In WA the sport of bowls is mainly considered either as an older person’s competitive sport or a social sport with a fun element. This is contradictory to other states of Australia and other countries, where a more significant focus is placed on elite competition. The inclusion of bowls in the Commonwealth Games is a good example of how well regarded the sport is within the commonwealth.

Bowls now competes against a range of sports which have high level seniors and veterans competitions including hockey, tennis, AFL and football (soccer). Bowls competes directly with these sports for participants, members and volunteers. For bowls to grow as a sport some significant changes need to occur at both a club level and in the competition structures across the state. To achieve these changes Bowls WA need to take strong and effective leadership with the support of clubs to address this issue. 

Although Perth’s population has disbursed over the past 30 years through urban expansion the general population has increased significantly and should have resulted in a comparative increase in the number of participants for bowls. The majority of bowlers are over 65 years of age and the sport has trouble attracting the next generation of bowlers, the ‘baby boomer’ generation and younger, as fully capitated bowlers. There are increasing numbers of Generation X and Y playing bowls but mainly in a social context for short periods of the year and not for competitive purposes. Clubs need to address these participation issues as a matter of long-term viability for their clubs and the sport.

There are a growing number of clubs which have identified and addressed the need to become more business oriented in their approach to financial and facility management. The average construction date of bowls facilities in WA is 1968 with a large number of facilities built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Many of these older facilities are now in need of major capital refurbishment or replacement. The construction of new facilities by clubs requires external financial assistance, often from the relevant local government authority and/or through CSRFF. Both local and state government have numerous community projects in need of funds and assistance competing with funds for bowling club facilities. Bowling clubs must have a compelling case for support.

The vision

Vision:

  • Growth in all forms of bowls participation, through the promotion and development of sustainable clubs.

Objectives:

  • Ensure facility provision is matched to community need. 
  • Develop sustainable bowling clubs of different types, sizes and aspirations. 
  • Develop a hierarchy of facilities based on the development of a competition hierarchy.

Actions

  • Each club and local government authority to assess and classify their club(s). 
  • Clubs to undertake initiatives to become more sustainable and self-sufficient. 
  • Create a competition structure that enables the development of a hierarchy of club facilities. 
  • Increase the variety of competition types to attract new participants to bowls. 
  • Promote the use of bowling club facilities to different community and sporting groups.