2020, a year in reflection
The experience of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has undoubtedly tested us all this year in many different ways, but the response to these challenging times is a great testament to the enduring and resilient nature of all levels of our sport and its various leaders, boards, staff, players and volunteers.
The response by BA and the State and Territory Associations (STAs) in offering membership fee relief across Bowls Clubs in Australia was widely welcomed by the bowls community.
Like our entire economy, the sport as a whole and Bowls Clubs across Australia will take some time to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic, but the combined response by BA and STAs to help mitigate the financial burden imposed upon Clubs and prioritise the health and wellbeing of bowls members outweighed any financial considerations. Whilst BA staff hours were reduced to 80% for two months, importantly support to Clubs remained largely unaffected, including the provision of vital assistance centred on obtaining the various forms of COVID-related funding.
A detailed national survey of clubs was undertaken to better understand the severity of the COVID-19 impact on Clubs, and the findings helped formulate part of BA’s response, which included the membership fee relief (totalling over $700k nationally) and the creation of a Helping Hand Fund, which to date has distributed over $10k in grants to Clubs.
The postponement of many national and international events in 2020 was unfortunate but ultimately inevitable, given the sudden halt to domestic and international travel; the sport’s pinnacle event was arguably the most impacted, with the 2020 World Bowls Championships postponed twice and now planned to occur in September 2021. As a result, the 2021 event calendar is expected to be extremely busy with a number of events re-scheduled and the inaugural staging of The Nationals now set to occur in October 2021.
One redeeming outcome of the number of postponements and cancellations will make for somewhat of a special treat in 2021, with the staging of three (3) Bowls Premier Leagues at Moama and Club Pine Rivers (x2), in February, April and November respectively.
Bowls Australia’s Strategic Plan Bowls Unleashed 2020-2022 (available to view here) continues to guide our activities from a Board and staffing perspective.
While the impact of the pandemic has delayed several strategic initiatives, I am very pleased that we have made solid progress in 2020 across many important areas, including the following:
- Finalised a comprehensive review of the Governance structures across the sport, with active input from all STAs;
- The creation of a Women in Bowls working party and subsequent report based on a survey which attracted approximately 3,000 responses. Additionally, through funding from the Australian Institute of Sport, we were able to launch a Bowls Australia Future Female Leaders Program which has thirteen (13) women from the Bowls fraternity undertaking professional development delivered by the Melbourne Business School;
- Enhancements to BowlsLink – with a new Rink Booking system developed and major improvements made to the overall functionality. Upcoming developments being prioritised include a Learning Management System, an online scoring system and a new BA iOS App;
- The preparation and creation of an Environmental and Sustainability Strategy, which will focus on providing advice and support to Clubs and BA/STAs;
- The updating of our National Participation Strategy, which continues to have a focus on engaging with various demographics in the community including Rookie Rollers (formerly Jr. Jack Attack for primary school-aged children), Jack Attack (social bowls), Roll Back The Clock (Sport Australia’s Better Ageing Program for inactive over-60s) and is underpinned by the knowledge and work of our participation and programs staff together with our valued Regional Bowls Managers who continue to meet and support the 1,832 affiliated clubs across Australia;
- The creation of a National Bowls Centre Strategy with a view to maximising the legacy of the World Bowls Championships on the Gold Coast. While this centre is earmarked for the Gold Coast, the Board and executive team are cognisant about creating a home for BA for years to come in a location that reflects the brand and reputation of a contemporary National Sporting Organisation;
- Our success in securing additional High Performance funding from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) for the national Para-Sport Bowls program;
- Board support for a National Marketing Campaign (Local Legends Wanted), which has been rolled out across television, radio, cinema, print and digital platforms;
- A comprehensive review of the National Merchandise Program which included the implementation of an ethical sourcing program for all licensees. The upgrading and launch of a new e-store, which now carries a range of additional products and aligns well with our Commercial Strategy;
- Maintained our strong broadcast and commercial agreement with Sports Entertainment Network (SEN), with all existing commercial sponsors maintaining their support through 2020 in BCiB, Blooms the Chemist, Aero, Stockland, BLK and MakMax and new commercial partners attracted to the sport in APIA, Legacy Lighting and Audika.
I wish to acknowledge the outstanding input and commitment of the BA Board and our nine (9) national committees, who have focused on a range of important issues for our sport over this arduous period and are primarily made up of hard-working volunteers. These committees have focussed on Audit, Risk and Integrity, Board nominations, Coaching, Officiating, Governance, Women’s Bowls, BowlsLink, Hall of Fame and Events such as the 2021 World Bowls Championship and the BPL.
Similarly, I extend my sincere and personal thanks to all BA staff, consultants and contractors for their loyalty and excellent contribution to the sport of Bowls in Australia, the BA Board Directors for their wisdom and advice, and the STA Boards and staff for their support and cooperation over the course of 2020.
Furthermore, I wish to thank Sport Australia, Australian Institute of Sport, Commonwealth Games Australia, Tourism Events Queensland and City of Gold Coast for their ongoing support of BA. I also thank our valued commercial and licensing partners for their investment in Bowls across Australia.
Finally, to our national committee members and all administrators, players and volunteers across the sport, I thank you for your invaluable contribution and commitment.
Please enjoy the holiday period, have a safe Christmas and a happy and successful 2021.
Chief Executive Officer