Jubilee reminder about traditions

BOWLS: There can be fewer more colourful spectacles than the Commonwealth carnival procession that greeted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last Tuesday.


There can be fewer more colourful spectacles than the Commonwealth carnival procession that greeted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last Tuesday.

A terrific show of unity and respect underlining the manner in which people from many cultures can mix and harmonise while maintaining their traditions and identities.

The pomp and splendour of the queen's golden carriage, then in the next breath the Brazilian samba style floats emphasised the blends of cultures and history. The music of Zadok the Priest and that Ozzy Osbourne figure were appreciated, side by side.

If the golden jubilee celebrations were a concerted effort by the planning committee to mix styles, cultures and historical

periods into a sumptuous recipe for enjoyment, they did a pretty magnificent job.

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So what are the parallels between the jubilee and our beloved sport? And what are the lessons to be learned for the bowling fraternity from that glorious occasion?

Well the first has to be that it is possible to move our sport forward without causing offence to the traditionalists and the radicals.

Only the other day, a club colleague expressed his disappointment at the fact that so many traditions from our sport seem to be disappearing. He pointed out that dress codes often seem less formal than they were, and that the sport does not seem as sociable as it used to be.

On his first point, I agree that it is not uncommon these days to see players arriving at inter-club matches without the customary club tie and blazer. And the traditional white shirt has increasingly been replaced with a registered coloured shirt, often emblazoned with sponsors' emblems.

So is this just abuse or controlled relaxation of dress codes expectations, or a statement that bowlers in the twenty-first century want to concentrate on bowling rather than dressing for an occasion.

The contentious uniform of the ladies also has met with some change as the regalia rules comprising white gloves and hats are now a little more relaxed. Culottes rather than skirts are allowed in some


But battles rage on. Is there a compromise? A compromise to benefit the sport rather than personal preferences?

Personally speaking, I feel we should promote the sport by looking like

sportsmen and sportswomen. However, I also believe that when a specific code of dress is requested we should observe it to the letter.

To the traditionalist, relaxation or agreed change to dress codes encourages demolition of past images and the standards set by our predecessors.

To the moderniser it is progress that makes the sport more accessible and more appealing to a wider audience. That wider audience will carry the sport forward.

So to the changes in top level competitive play. Many observers were extremely critical of the "modern" bowling regalia worn by the competitors in the televised Professional Bowls Association tournaments held during last indoor season.

The design of the track suits was generally unpopular with local viewers I spoke to, some of whom describing them as "saggy pyjamas". But what did the players think? Those interviewed on the matter said the more modern clothes were more comfortable to play in.

But to many viewers, the track suits were merely the tip of the iceberg. There was huge resentment towards the changes that allegedly transformed the tournament into a "circus" or "sideshow", and domestic rules that made televised bowls look "nothing like the sport played by a good ninety-nine percent of the bowling public."

Whether or not the adaptations were implemented to promote discussion among viewers or simply to bring a new dimension to televised bowls I am not sure.

The decision to bowl in just one direction for the benefit of the auditorium

audience and to position the jack always onto a designated spot rather than letting the competitors cast it was brave on the planners' part, but foolhardy if trying to persuade the staunch bowler, strategist and traditionalist to like the changes.

Many spectators I spoke to resented the idea of a blue carpet to play on, seeing it only as a commercial for manufacturers.

Although the rule changes upset the majority, it must be remembered that anything that speeds up the game, making it more fluent and exciting will add appeal to viewers and potential bowlers alike

If colour coding between outfits, bowls and playing carpet is to benefit the sport then the set-makers and designers have created an impact. The use of coloured bowls on screen aids identification.

Yet again, however, the traditionalist is less than convinced, particularly when green, red, blue, yellow and orange bowls are featuring more and more on our greens.

Martin Curtis of Bowlsworld told me he has now sold more than 150 sets of coloured bowls. After a slow start, he says the manufacturers have a backlog of orders and are pleased with the uptake.

All things considered, the coloured bowls issue has helped to change the image and bring bowls up to date in common with other sports. If the image needed changing.

The multi-culturalism of the procession along The Mall set the example that differences are to be proud of, and that while unity is valuable, so is individuality.

With reference to our sport, we have heard of the unified Bowls England team to represent our country in next month's Commonwealth Games. However, we are I am sure, proud of the distinct trademarks of the respective codes existing in our sport. Much has been said about bringing together the association and federation codes, and uniting men's and women's bowls, but surely there is no reason why the characteristics of each group should not remain intact.

Each code is proud of its laws of the game, its idiosyncrasies and individual traits, so why deprive all of them of to create one set of laws? Or is this what the sport needs to survive and flourish?

What needs to improve surely is the working relationship between each code or organisation. All too often in the past we have seen conflicts of dates and interests at the expense of opportunity and to the detriment of the sport we all enjoy. Another tradition that seems to have declined is the tourist match. Once a regular sight, fixtures with club sides on tour seem less numerous these days.

Drink and drive laws have quite rightly deterred some bowlers from post-match socialising. But surely we bowlers can be welcoming, cordial and hospitable without having to depend on alcohol. If the sport is to flourish among all age groups we need as many bowling opportunities as possible.

If we are to emulate the Queen's qualities of dignity and efficiency, we need to ensure that our sport is soundly led by efficient officers who have long term objectives and vision for the future development of the sport.

I am convinced that those leaders are in place, working hard for the good of us all. The fact that the game of bowls has survived for so long pays tribute to the untiring dedication of those who serve on club, county, national and international bodies.

Long live the sport!

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