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John Bell explains his actions after stepping down from World Bowls roles

The world of bowls – or at least its outdoor arm – was rocked when World Bowls President John Bell, a distinguished English bowler with an impressive CV on and off the green, ‘stepped down’ on July, and was replaced, at least temporarily, by Australia’s Darryl Clout, a respected administrator, who was the Regional Director for Oceania.

A World Bowls media release gave no reason for the genial Cumbrian’s shock resignation, but paid tribute to his ‘nine years of service – seven years as President and two as European Regional Director’, and wished him well in his retirement.

Clout has 25 years experience of national and international sports administration, having been President of Softball Australia and Bowls Australia. He was also Head of NSW Deparrtment of Sport & Revreation, and has been a Director of Commonwealth Games Australia.

Acknowledging his appointment, Clout indicated that World Bowls are committed to undertake “a major review of what our sport should look like as we head into the next decade.” He added: “I feel privileged to be elected as the President of the sport’s international body.”

John Bell wrote to all Member National Associations (MBAs), explaining his actions.

He said:  ‘It is with great sadness that I am contacting you to inform you that I have stepped down from my office of President with immediate effect. I owe it to my loyal supporters across the world to offer this brief word of explanation.

The situation that exists within our World Bowls organisation is now in direct conflict with my principles of fairness and transparency. I am sorry to report that the World Bowls Board has gradually become fractious, indecisive and increasingly hostile to our CEO.
A deteriorating situation has been exacerbated by the intervention of a group of the five CEOs from the larger MNAs who have expressed their dissatisfaction with the way World Bowls is operating and questioned its ability to properly address the many challenges now facing our sport. Constructive criticism is always welcome but deep-rooted prejudices are harder to contend with. There is no doubt that certain Board members have been collaborating with this group, which has contributed to the disquiet within the Board and its unsavoury exchanges with our CEO. With regard to the latter, I am absolutely disgusted with the unprofessional treatment which has been meted out to him. How can an organisation run effectively when the Board continually vote to exclude its CEO from its meetings?
I have tried to lead the Board in a professional, positive and above all in a fair manner. I have failed. I do, however very much appreciate the conciliatory efforts of some of my fellow Board members who have tried to assist me in finding a way to make the system work as it should.
I have always pledged that during my office World Bowls will always represent the interests of ALL its bowling nations both large and small. It appears however that the views of the group of five CEOs have a far greater influence on the Board than any consideration for the interests of the other 48 nations, who as far as I am aware have no serious grievances with World Bowls, and in fact are probably totally unaware of what has been going on in the background  for a considerable period of time including  efforts to terminate and dispense with the services of the CEO.
In conclusion, there is no doubt the world has drastically changed and organisations like World Bowls must also change. It most certainly needs to respond positively to the new challenges facing our sport in order to maintain relevance, effectiveness, and a united strength of purpose across the globe. That to me should never be in question. What also really matters to me is that any such process must be brought about with fairness and transparency and be fully and genuinely representative of all the interests involved.
To all the nations who have supported me during my terms of office I sincerely thank you. It has been an honour and privilege to represent and serve you.
To World Bowls CEO Gary I thank you for your 20 years of dedicated service and all the work you have continued to undertake in a professional manner in spite of your ‘isolation’ from the very mechanics of operational and administrative duties which you should rightfully be at the heart of. To your assistant Roger, for the past 17 years of devoted service, and to David Allen – our Media and PR manager over many years – a big thank you too for your continued sound advice and loyal support.”

For more reaction pick up the September issue of Bowls International.