Queensland bowling clubs will rebound from COVID-19, with most clubs coming out of lockdown periods “reasonably well” and participation rates expected to improve, said Bowls Queensland CEO Brett Wilkie.
But Mr Wilkie’s high hopes for Sunshine State clubs come as declining membership, maintenance costs and ageing volunteers create the perfect storm, according to other industry insiders.
“I think it’s still strong with our participation numbers up (pre-COVID) and we’ve got a good base and I think it’s just a matter of clubs trying to utilise those participation numbers and keep them coming back and keep them as regular players,” Mr Wilkie said.
The response follows news reported by Clubtic last week that the former Surfers Paradise Bowls Club, shuttered for the past decade, is back on the market and a sold sign going up on North Rockhampton Bowls Club.
This follows other reports that the oldest bowls club in Queensland, Booroodabin Bowls Club in Newstead, is in financial difficulty and Moorooka Bowlo in Brisbane has ceased operation until Brisbane City Council finds a new lessee.
The closure and/or sale of Peregian Beach Bowls Club, Swans Bowls Club in Maroochydore, Noosa Bowls Club, Sunshine Coast Bowls Club and Pacific Paradise Bowls Club, also show the hallmarks of industry struggle. But Mr Wilkie said many in the community have come to realise the social aspect of their local club with new people trying out the game and signing up.
Regional bowls managers (RBMs) are also out in the field to assist clubs and offer advice in certain areas, but many fail to address their financial issues until it is too late.
“We offer assistance, and it is given when requested, but as clubs are autonomous, we are in not in a position to act without a request from a club. But when they do approach us, we do assist where we can,” he said.
“We have RBMs out in the field to assist clubs and to offer advice in certain areas – it depends on who is the RBM, as they all have different strengths – but they get out on the road and visit clubs and advise on options.
“But sometimes they come to us when it’s too late and there is not a lot that we can do. A lot of clubs that do close have many reasons for why they close, but I don’t think (the reasons are) consistent.”
The sport, by its very nature, should also appeal as people return to outdoor entertainment venues, he said.
“Our sport has been appealing for those reasons. You can still go outdoors, you can social distance. It’s been appealing in that regard and hopefully (bowls) clubs capitalise on that.
“Different clubs are also trying to attract the younger generation (with barefoot bowls and night-time experiences) to the clubs and keep them there.
“And we’ve seen a couple of the bigger sporting groups come in, like The Waves, and take over bowling clubs. Up north there are a couple of football clubs that have also taken over the bowls clubs and they still operate with the bowls. So, when you get too old for football, there is always another option.”
Costly managers who promise but do not produce the returns promised, have also hit clubs, he said.
And if a return to full trade means you are hiring new managers, make sure you do your due diligence, know the potential employee’s full work history, where they have been beforehand and check their credentials, he said.