One-to-one with Neil Dalrymple, World Bowls CEO
In July, I embarked on a visit to the United Kingdom and on my journey back to Australia, I also visited Switzerland.
Given that I am in my first year as CEO of World Bowls and that I reside in Australia, I felt it was very important for me to visit the Northern Hemisphere and meet a range of people and organisations from within the bowls industry and from the broader sports industry.
During my visit, I met the CEOs, many staff and directors from our member countries and associations in this part of the world: Bowls England, Bowls Scotland, the Welsh women and men’s associations, BowlsWales, Bowls Europe and Swiss Bowls and it was really encouraging to hear the enthusiasm from all and their desire to grow the sport and stage some excellent competitions. It was great to meet up with our two World Bowls directors from the UK – Sue Beatt from Scotland and Hazel Wilson from Wales. Sue and Hazel have recently taken responsibility for the European region of World Bowls which consists of 19 countries and are staging regular meetings with the delegates.
I was fortunate to meet representatives of two of our bowls manufacturers Drakes Pride and Taylor Bowls and it was terrific to hear how the sales of bowls and associated equipment is strong in the UK and the demand to purchase new bowls has lifted since the COVID-19 period. I also met representatives of Dales Sports and Greengauge who are global leaders in the supply of carpet and synthetic surfaces for bowling greens around the world and for short mat bowls, which is very popular in the Northern Hemisphere.
Important meetings occurred with representatives of the International Bowls for the Disabled, the International Indoor Bowls Council, the Professional Bowls Association (World Bowls Tour) and the World Short Mat Bowls Council. The focus of these discussions was around how World Bowls could work more closely and collaboratively with each of them into the future.
The philosophy that ‘All Bowls is Bowls’, is one that I have consistently used in these meetings and I am very keen to move our sport forward by having much closer relations at an international level and bring our sport together with ‘one voice’. Consolidation of the world calendar of events was discussed and how these organisations might become part of the new World Bowls Series was also a focus.
Together with World Bowls director Hazel Wilson, I visited a number of clubs in Wales (and England) and even managed a game in England at the Paulton Bowling Club, where we played Keynsham in a Sunday afternoon friendly match. The green was certainly a lot slower than what I am used to in Australia, but the hospitality was excellent from both clubs. The clubs in Wales we visited included Llandrindod Wells, RTB Ebbw Vale Merthyr West End and Barry Athletic and they were all very welcoming and demonstrated to me their genuine aim was to make their clubs more welcoming to all and to try new game formats to entice
It was excellent to meet Ceris Hewlings (editor of Bowls International) and Steve Watson (Sporting Highlights) and hear how their respective organisations work in the bowls industry and the contribution they both make.
Steve is also chair of Disability Bowls England and he has a real passion to provide more opportunities for para bowlers and make their pathway more streamlined.
From the outside of the bowls industry, I was fortunate to visit and met the staff at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) office in London where we discussed the future hosting of the Games, including 2026 (unfortunately Victoria has since withdrawn) and 2030. The Commonwealth Games is very important to bowls so maintaining a strong relationship and connection with the CGF and their members is very important, especially as World Bowls wants to grow our list of member countries.
I also had the chance to catch up with an ex-pat Australian Matt Curtain, who is now the CEO of Great Britain Weightlifting. Matt has an extensive network and understating of international sport and provided me with some great advice for bowls for the future and especially the opportunities for us to seek inclusion in the many multi-sport events that exist around the world.
ON TO SWITZERLAND
In Switzerland, I met with a number of people to discuss the opportunities for Bowls to become an Olympic and/or a Paralympic sport into the future. James Carr, deputy executive director of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, Claude Azema, president of World Petanque and Bowls Federation, Valentin Capelli, of WADA, Tony Holding, of SportFive (EKS), are all experienced and knowledgeable about international sport and provided me with great insights and background on the process and timeframe around how bowls could become a recognised Olympic or a Paralympic sport. Suffice to say, the road could be a long one, but an opportunity does exist for World Bowls to join the World Petanque and Bowls Federation which could mean that bowls can be recognised by the IOC and we can also apply to the International Paralympic Committee for membership, an action that will be implemented. The first step in both cases is to be recognised by the committees and then at least we can be considered for inclusion in any future Olympic or Paralympic Games and other multi-sport global events.
My final destination was in Switzerland and a visit to the Swiss Alps where I was very fortunate to meet the main contacts for Swiss Bowls – Beat Matti and Christian Haldimann. Not only are Beat and Christian the key administrators but they also are important national representative players who will be attending and representing Switzerland at the 2023 World Championships on the Gold Coast. Swiss Bowls shared some excellent plans to build a new (and first) permanent outdoor green and add to their six existing bowls clubs and just over 100 active bowls players, who currently play in curling halls during the ice-free period. The hospitality provided to myself and World Bowls director Michael Catlow was exceptional and World Bowls will definitely be supporting Swiss Bowls in their endeavors to improve their Bowls infrastructure and grow the sport across their beautiful country.
Over the coming months and years, I certainly have plans to visit other destinations and our member countries and as I have learnt and was reinforced on this trip, nothing beats the benefits of meeting face to face and listening and understanding the challenges and opportunities that the sport of bowls faces now and into the future.
Caption: Neil’s visit included meetings with Swiss Bowls
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