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Cheats Never Prosper | Laws of the Sport of Bowls fourth edition approved

Just over 12 months ago, World Bowls started a process to review the Laws of the Sport. Aside from a couple of minor amendments, this was the first major review since 2014 during which the third edition was born.

The new fourth edition was approved at a World Bowls meeting just after the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. International Technical Official (and Bowls International columnist) Allan Thornhill brings you up to date.

In the grand scheme of things, there are not that many practical changes that affect the playing of the sport. There have been slight adjustments to some of the definitions, in particular the definitions of a rink and rink of play to tidy up any confusion on what is included within the boundaries of the rink of play. As a result, some further laws have been adjusted to deal with the change of wording.

A new definition has been created from existing wording to define measuring. Neither of these changes really affect the playing of the game, but set the scene for the rest of the laws.

Another relocation of existing wording has created a new law stating that in all games players must play with the appropriate number of bowls from the same set. Again this is a cosmetic change to define this in the play arrangement section rather than later on in the law book where it was harder to find previously.

None of us like a cheat and cheats never prosper – this change to the laws is likely to be the most controversial and raise the most questions. It was with this in mind that a proposal was submitted to deal more robustly with those individuals that feel it necessary to cheat. Let me throw a couple of scenarios your way.

A team is holding four shots and the third in the team asks their skip to draw another on the backhand. The bowl is delivered, but the third soon realises that it is both narrow and heavy and heading straight for the jack. With no back bowls, hitting the jack would be disastrous and so the third steps out in front of the head and stops the skips bowl from disturbing the head.

Until now, the only resolution for this would be for the opposing skip to declare the bowl dead. Hardly a punishment when that bowl was proving to be too damaging to the head anyway and is probably better off sitting on the bank.

How about the skip that moves one of their own short bowls out of the way to allow their thirds bowl to pass as it was on a good line and length. Again, the only punishment was for the opponent to replace the bowl that was moved.

So a tougher stance has been taken on these blatant acts of cheating with the introduction of two laws that will deal with the above scenarios. In both the penalty being forfeiture of the game. Harsh? What do you think?

There is clearly some clarification needed here as well. Questions are already being raised about the innocence of stopping one of your bowls from going into the ditch when it has missed the head and is a little heavy. Well clearly that doesn’t warrant you packing your bowls and going home early. Let’s remember that other displacement laws still apply. The laws committee have pre-empted some of these queries and have published clarification on the intent of these new laws and I believe these to be very clear.

In my view, there should be no reason or scenario where you have to touch, lift, stop or otherwise interfere with bowls from your own team or your opponents during the game. If you avoid this, then you avoid any displacement penalty in the laws.

The fourth edition has to be implemented no later than April 1, 2023.

Minor changes all round that are unlikely to affect the way the sport is played at any level, but with one sting in the tail to deal with cheats. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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