2019 year in review – CEO’s Report

by Aidan Davis

As 2019 draws to a close, Bowls Australia’s CEO Neil Dalrymple reviews and reflects on the past 12 months and the many highlights achieved across all levels of the sport.

I am pleased to write this calendar year-end review and reflect on the past 12 months and the many highlights achieved across all levels of Bowls in Australia.

The Bowls Australia Strategic Plan – Bowls Unleashed continues to guide our activities from a Board and staffing perspective. Solid progress has been made across many areas and an interim review of the plan occurred last week with the Board and staff.

On the participation front, the 2018-19 period saw an increase in participation to a new record level, of 693,563 across Australia. At the same time formal membership has stagnated, which reinforces the reality of the changing participation preferences in today’s society.

The 693,563 participants in Australian bowls consists of:

o 202,273 pennant and competition participants
o 468,420 participants in regular social bowls
o 22,870 participants in Jack Attack programs (including Junior Jack Attack in schools).

Formal, or registered, playing membership of bowls clubs has been decreasing for more than 30 years, at the rate of 3.4% per annum on average. The most recent decrease was reduced to 1.8% (between 2017-18 and 2018-19). The Australian resident population is currently increasing at an average annual rate of 1.6%. Decreases in formal membership of bowls clubs have been offset by growth in social participation in bowls; a function of Australia’s time poor population. Growth in flexible formats for social bowls has also had a strong impact on the age structure of bowls participants.

Over the period 2010 to 2019, regular bowls participation has increased at an average annual rate of 3.38%.

During the year we welcomed new staff members; Communications and Digital Coordinator Lachlan Williams, RBMs Clay Parker and James Whitehead, Programs and Participation Manager – SA James Wilson together with new participation staff in Michael Haarsma, Danielle Cirillo and Kate Vella.

We also had a few staff depart in 2019 with Tony Sherwill, Jennifer Pitson, Mark Whiteman and Deborah Niccol all leaving to pursue other opportunities in the sports industry and it was particularly pleasing that Tony secured Bowls Victoria’s CEO position; this was a great appointment for strengthening the relationship between the two organisations. BA’s relationships with all STAs remain strong – I personally speak to all CEOs and most Presidents on a regular basis and keep communication lines very open.

There have been many highlights in 2019 and our success in securing extra funding for Better Ageing, Jack Attack and for a Governance review totalling $1.525m was a significant result alongside the work achieved by our RBMs in assisting clubs to secure an excellent slice of the infrastructure funding that was offered federally this year. Our fifteen RBMs continue to offer great services to the Bowling Clubs across Australia as they seek to assist in growing the participation and sustainability of Bowls in Australia.

Once again, we staged highly successful editions of the Australian Open and the Bowls Premier League. The Bowls Premier League was again held at Club Pine Rivers (CPR) in Brisbane for a seventh time and with a new BPL leg at Moama Bowling Club to commence in February 2020, it continues to be a great source of PR and marketing for the sport with over 80 hours of live TV coverage and replays.

The BPL Cup continued to grow culminating in 16 teams travelling to CPR for the finals. The competition grew from 680 teams in 2018 to 695 teams in 2019.

Rinkside Live (our live streaming service) was again a hit in 2019 and has become a shining light in profiling our national events and players. Our media team covered 14 national and international events (three more than in 2018) with entertaining commentary, camera work and innovation which has generated a considerable audience and following.

During the year an agreement was finalised with the Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast for the Australian Open to be held on the Gold Coast for a further five years, from 2020-2024. It’s pleasing to report that an agreement was also secured with the QLD Government and City of Gold Coast for The Nationals to be staged from 2020- 2023. This new festival of Bowls event will see a number of our national events staged consecutively at the Broadbeach commencing in October 2020.

Building and maintaining strong commercial partnerships is a priority for BA, so it was a great achievement to secure a new and innovative broadcast and commercial agreement with CrocMedia in 2019, which covers a five-year extension to our current broadcast production arrangement and an exclusive commercial partnership. This will see existing radio and television coverage expanded, while Crocmedia will also represent the commercial interests of Bowls Australia, including broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship.

The broadcast deal will see CrocMedia’s TV production division Rainmaker deploy its newly acquired state-of-the-art broadcast facilities to produce high-end programming for multiple platforms including Fox Sports, SBS, Kayo and multiple social channels covering the sport’s biggest competitions including the prestigious Australian Open each June, the made-for-television Bowls Premier League each February and November, the 2020 World Bowls Championships, 2019 World Bowls Challenge and the annual The Bowls Show.

A comprehensive review of the National Merchandising Program (NMP) recently commenced, despite steady returns, to examine:

• The NMP Policy itself and the requirement for any changes/updates;
• Assessing how BA enforces the NMP policy at all levels of the sport;
• The creation and implementation of an ethical sourcing policy;
• What more BA and STAs can do to increase the awareness of the program at club and association level;
• How BA can demonstrate to NMP licensees better value for their licence.

Through our CrocMedia partnership, during the year we engaged specialised sports marketing agency Ballpark to create a marketing/brand strategy to assist in attracting more bowlers to the sport. This strategy and the subsequent campaign created includes a unique and innovative partnership with World Bowls to enable them to have a global marketing strategy for the sport worldwide.

The campaign was being launched in late 2019 and features advertising on television, radio, cinema and on digital platforms throughout 2020. I am very excited with the collateral and tagline produced – “Local Legends Wanted” and I am optimistic that this advertising will have a major impact on attracting more people to clubs and to play Bowls.

The roll out of our new Whole of Sport IT system, BowlsLink is occurring following considerable development, with the BowlsLink steering and operational committees monitoring and overseeing the progress of the project, and it should be noted that the adoption and performance to date has been very good.

Pleasingly, the BA Board have functioned very well under the leadership of President Darryl Clout, who has also recently been re-elected to the Board of Commonwealth Games Australia for a further four years. This is an important appointment from an advocacy perspective and an opportunity to further any bowls specific opportunities.

I wish to acknowledge the great work of our national committees, who have focused on a range of important issues for our sport and are primarily made up of hard-working volunteers.

• Audit, Risk and Policy Committee – many policy updates, risk assessments and annual audit matters;
• Affiliation Review Committee;
• National Officiating Advisory Group;
• BowlsLink Steering and Operational Committees;
• Hall of Fame Committee;
• 2020 World Bowls Championships and BPL Organising Committees.

In 2020, our new National Coaching Advisory Group, an NMP advisory committee, a Governance review working party and a Women in Bowls working party are all set to commence operation.

During the year BA has assisted a number of STAs with Human Resource-related matters and recently we commenced the development of a number of policy documents and guidelines to support our roll out and compliance with the Child Safe framework.

In 2019, BA hosted the Asia Pacific Championships, which was an important preparatory event ahead of the 2020 World Bowls Championships. I acknowledge and applaud the continuing success of our BCiB Australian Jackaroos together with our coaches and High Performance staff, who contributed to the magnificent results at Asia Pacific Championships, where the Jackaroos secured four gold, one silver and two bronze medals from the eight disciplines contested.

Mental health and well-being are important issues in society for all demographics, so I am very keen to support our workforce as effectively as possible. A regular fortnightly meeting occurs to discuss our structure, our people and how we can improve the experience of working at BA. In this financial year and moving forward, we have budgeted to spend more on personal and professional development sessions. A decision we made recently was to offer all BA staff the opportunity to take personal leave days over the Christmas period which I know has been well received and is a small token of BA’s appreciation of their commitment to their positions and the sport.

I remain committed to the BA values, which are:

To collaborate;
To be innovative;
To be customer focused; and
To be inclusive.

Our sport and its stakeholders can do more to uphold these values in 2020 and beyond.
Undoubtedly, 2020 will be a huge year for the sport, with our new National Marketing Campaign to be rolled out across television, radio, cinema and digital platforms, a new BPL event at Moama, a World Bowls Championship on the Gold Coast, the start of another five year period for the Australian Open on the Gold Coast and the launch of the new Nationals event in October.

Finally, I extend my sincere and personal thanks to all BA staff and contractors for their loyalty and great contribution to the sport of Bowls in Australia, the BA Board Directors for their wisdom and advice, the STA Boards and Staff for their support and cooperation over the course of 2019.

I thank our commercial and licensing partners for their continuing support and investment in Bowls across Australia.

To our national committee members and all administrators and volunteers across the sport, I thank you for your invaluable contribution and commitment to the sport.

Please enjoy the holiday period, have a safe Christmas and a happy and successful 2020.

Best wishes.

Neil Dalrymple
Chief Executive Officer
Bowls Australia

December, 2019