Bowlers voice fears over sport's future in South Tyneside
Bowling in South Tyneside faces an uncertain future amid funding cuts and the closure of almost a quarter of the borough's public greens, a club boss has warned.
Derek Wilson, chairman of Whitburn Bowling Club, says he feared the sport may even cease locally after 2020 when clubs expect to have to pay for greens maintenance themselves.
Until this year, South Tyneside Council had maintained greens at around seven venues – used by 33 clubs and over 500 players –but funding pressures mean clubs have to part pay.
The South Tyneside Bowling Association (STBA), which represents 30 clubs, says the council’s funding will drop further in 2019 and stop fully in 2020.
Three of the borough’s 13 greens have already closed since the end of last season and one of two in Whitburn is being kept open only because members have forked out £2,000 to buy their own grass cutter.
Mr Wilson, 65, said the club had initially agreed to lose its second green to help the council financially, but a rethink had led to the cutter’s purchase.
He added: “We realised we needed two greens to hold a major annual fundraising competition and so decided to buy our own machine.
“It looks like bowling here hasn’t got a very good future. There has been bowling South Tyneside for 125 years, but I think it all might stop unless people can afford to pay themselves.”
Since last summer, funding issues have led to the closure of two greens at the North Marine Park, South Shields.
Cleadon Park Bowling Club, which had one green, has also closed with its members relocating, although not because of funding issues.
Other venues, including three in Hebburn and Jarrow, have so far been unaffected.
Paul Walker, secretary of STBA, admitted to concerns around funding and said more greens could be lost from next year.
He added: “At the moment, there is nothing to worry about. The council hasn’t withdrawn funding and will support us to 2020, but clubs are looking at options.After that, all funding will cease, and it will be up to the individual clubs to find the funding, and this is the difficult challenge.
South Tyneside Council confirmed the STBA was now contributing to maintenance costs. A spokeswoman said the council had yet to enter into any detailed discussions in relation to the 2019 season.
She added: “We continue to work with South Tyneside Bowling Association and other partners to ensure these facilities can continue to be provided in a sustainable way in the future.”
South Tyneside has four private bowling clubs, which are unaffected by the funding cuts.