Winter League to be mixed gender

Teams involved in forming the new Winter League are in favour of making it the first mixed-gender veterans competition in the area. A Conference Call Meeting held yesterday considered a wide range of issues in forming a new League and in a surprising development there was unanimous support for opening up the competition to lady bowlers. It was agreed that there will be no minimum or maximum gender numbers imposed on teams but the opportunity to have lady bowlers is now open to all teams. Is this a sign of things to come in the Summer League?

The clubs further agreed to keep the age eligibility rules aligned with the HDVBA Bye-Laws and in addition, male bowlers in the new League must have played for the same club in the Summer League to qualify to play in the Winter competition. This will ensure that the League will be as competitive as is possible for a new setup.

Springwood confirmed their enthusiasm to host the new League and Milnsbridge also offered their green to help overcome any restrictions there may still be regarding numbers allowed to be on a green at the same time which might jeopardise the start-up in 2020.

Almondbury Lib have withdrawn from the League over player concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. That leaves 9 teams signed up to Year 1 and they are Springwood, Milnsbridge, Meltham, Kirkheaton Con, Marsh United, Denby Dale, Lowerhouses and Huddersfield Recreation Club (two teams)

With little indication about timescales for reducing social distancing and bans of large numbers of people congregating together makes it very difficult to finalise some of the issues facing the new League. The offer from Milnsbridge to allow their green to be used as well provides some flexibility to offset any restrictions on player numbers but also opens up the opportunity for more teams to potentially join the League.

In an ideal situation, there could be 16 teams in two Sections in Year 1 of the League based on different greens. However, it is currently impossible to firm up team numbers in advance of any guidance changes that may come into force before the October start date. Even that date may change as teams are happy to consider an earlier start date if the rules allow and an early September start is feasible so allowing matches to be played in (slightly) warmer weather. All matches will be played on Tuesdays with the start time still to be decided but aiming to play in the warmest part of those Winter days.

If any team is interested in joining the League this year they are now invited to forward an expression of interest to get them on the waiting list should we be able to expand numbers. There is no guarantee that the League can be expanded (or even start at all) yet but clubs are hopeful that they will be able to start competitive bowling again in 2020. An expression of interest has already been received from Thorpe Green and others are now invited. Log your club's expression of interest

The Conference Call meeting discussed the playing format and agreed that teams would be comprised of four bowlers and, in recognition of the concerns around social distancing, they will play in four singles games in the opening season. That is a change from originally agreed format of two singles and one pairs games in each match. The scoring system will be one point per singles game and two points for the best aggregate total so meaning that six points are available in each match. All games will be 21-up.

Clubs discussed the four options for the Ruling Body of the new League and were unanimous in agreeing that they believed that it should come under the auspices of the HDVBA.

In a wide-ranging meeting clubs also discussed finances, sponsorship, bowler transfers, team and individual KO's, trophies, prize money, Bowlsnet, car parking and also agreed to hold one or two trial days if time permits before the season starts in earnest.

The next stage is for a draft set of rules to be agreed between clubs which will then be presented to the HDVBA Management Committee. Timescales mean that the League hopes to be up and running before the October Half-Year General Meeting when the League Bye-Laws are set, so would look to have these draft rules approved by the Management Committee for Year 1 and then adopted by the full meeting of the clubs at the AGM in February.

Clubs acknowledged that they would learn a lot in the first season of the League and expectations are that there may be several changes to rules for Year 2 once teams get experience of the playing format.

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