End of season options

Once the 14-week League season ends in late January there are a number of options as to how to move competitive bowling forward over the remaining weeks of the Winter League season. None of these have been considered by the teams or League Officials yet so this is just me thinking aloud at present.

The only thing that seems pretty firm is that the top team in each of the two divisions will play off for the Founders' Cup. If that is a straight one-match play-off a decision needs to be made on which green that decider is played - Springwood or Milnsbridge. Whichever it is will bring a huge advantage to one team. So the option is there for a two-legged play-off, one leg on each green with the aggregate score determining the overall Champion. That's different and should make life a little more interesting.

That play-off could be extended to see the teams in 2nd place in each division going-head-to-head over two legs as well, 3rd v 3rd etc. That would give each team a further two fixtures taking the total to 14 competitive matches. Those extra two-weeks of fixtures will take us into early February so potentially leaving a further 4-5 weeks available for more matches or maybe the weather may have interfered by then and disrupted the planned schedule.

If time allows then it may be possible to invite the top two teams on the waiting list to join the 14 other teams in a straight KO competition involving 16 teams which would be played over 4 weeks. This has flaws. If the intent of the Winter League is to provide as many bowling opportunities as possible to as many teams as possible over the winter months then a straight KO doesn't seem the best fit. Half the teams would get knocked-out after one match whereas the finalists would play four extra matches.

So alternatively those 16 teams could be split into four divisions of four teams who could then play each other once over three-weeks in a Round-Robin competition. The four top teams from those four divisions could then go into a KO semi-final situation. If the 30-people rule is still in place at that time it may mean staggering some start times to ensure compliance but it is all doable.

Every option is weather dependent of course as we are unlikely to escape the full season without some unplayable Tuesdays. But there is no reason to confine matches to just Tuesdays with no other local leagues operating in competition it could be feasible to use other days of the week to catch up with any backlog of fixtures.

Our thinking shouldn't be constrained by past practice and we need to have a 'Can-do' approach to everything rather than resorting to 'this is how we have always done it and we can't change' which has damaged progress and the image of bowling for too long.

As well as depending on the weather we also need to be mindful of the requirements of the greenkeepers as they may have some pre-summer season work plans that could require the closure of the greens for some time in March. We have so much to learn but we will learn and we will all benefit from that.

The Winter League has an exciting future, the demand from bowlers and clubs is obviously there so bring it all on. Mixed-gender senior teams, play-off title deciders, two-legged matches, Round-Robin competitions - where will it all end? Let's dare to do some things differently!

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