One of the barriers to make Bowls Fit® for the Future and meeting the Governments desire to GET MORE PEOPLE ACTIVE across different bowls FORMATS is when new or experienced bowlers do not feel welcome at a specific club/ county. This maybe for the simple reason Bowls or a specific Bowls club is not for them.
Having been asked to join the Bowls England structure as the "Devils advocate Grassroots Bowler", Mark Courtney was then asked to run a project on how to "Increase Bowls Club Membership and increase participation in Bowls". The project led to an increase in membership of over 40% at different clubs with a lot learnt along the way.
As a result of running that project on behalf of Bowls England, Mark was subject to alleged abuse and bullying.
Despite reporting this alleged abuse on a number of occasions to Bowls England, Mark has been unable to have his allegations investigated via an INDEPENDENT Complaints and Grievance Process as would be required to meet what Mark views as the minimum standard of Sports Governance to justify "Public Funding".
Mark however continued to work on bowls development and supporting bowlers who have sadly also been subject to alleged abuse of bullying within the sport of bowls with some being banned from Bowls Clubs without evidence. As there is still no proper INDEPENDENT appeals process within the "SPORT of BOWLS", as the film "Blackball" so clearly identified back in 2003 Blackball (film) - Wikipedia bowlers have no choice but to suffer the consequences of being wronged.
We fully endorse the principle of the "Whyte Review in the summer of 2022" - The independent report examines allegations of mistreatment in the sport of gymnastics https://www.uksport.gov.uk/resources/the-whyte-review
We also allege there are similarities between Bowls and the issues highlighted by the “The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket report “Holding up a Mirror to Cricket” June 2023 with a forward by The Right Honourable Sir John Major KG CH ICEC-Executive-Summary-with-Forewords.pdf (theicec.com)
We are pleased to agree with and support Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England and UK Sport CEO Sally Munday who said:
“Sport is precious and all organisations who have either a leadership role in sport or provide sport in this country have a responsibility to help protect and improve it for all. Since the publication of the Whyte Review in the summer of 2022, we have been reviewing the findings and exploring how we can use them to drive improvements and better support those who organise, coach and take part in sport to ensure the best possible experience for all.
Bullying is clearly a difficult issue to address in any organisation as it can be part of an organisations culture, may be subject to individuals’ prejudices BUT to make real change there has to be acceptance and the first step has to be taken.
It is easy to ignore the issue of bullying and abuse in bowls as bowls is perceived as "a gentle sport for old people" BUT that misses one critical fact
The older we get the more chance we have of suffering from Mental Health issues such as Dementia when we cannot "look after ourselves" and are therefore more vulnerable to abuse at many levels an issue recognised in safeguarding with the category "vulnerable adults"
We believe that the Sport of Bowls does NOT have the proper Governance Structure in place to allow incidents of bullying and abuse to be properly reported and INDEPENDENTLY investigated to meet the standard required of Good Sports Governance as required to be the beneficiary of PUBLIC FUNDS.
With PUBLIC money under so many demands why should money be given to bowls over social care when the SPORT maybe contributing to the social care needs by what is happening within BOWLS?
Whilst SPORT ENGLAND and BOWLS ENGLAND have advised that myself and others can use a “whistleblowing process” in the absence of a PROPER INDEPENDENT "Grievance and Complaints Process" we feel that is just sweeping the abuse in Bowls "Under the Carpet" as what is the point of telling an organsiation what they already know and have not addressed the core issue over many years.
Bowls needs to allegedly stop "sweeping bullying and abuse under the carpet" and deal with what is a major issue and source of abuse and bullying in people's lives.
Having benefited from the excellent course given by the Bowls Development Alliance / Coach Bowls which detailed the core specific issues of bullying and abuse in bowls and more recently a course from the https://www.anncrafttrust.org/ we feel we need the time is now right to
Ask the Government and Sport England, to FORMALLY ACKNOWLEDGE the problems and commission a full and independent review into Bowls to cover as a minimum Bullying, sexism, Racism, ageism and the lack of a "fit for purpose" Governance Structure.
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