Falling memberships put city bowling greens at risk

Pastimes such as tennis are on the rise
Pastimes such as tennis are on the rise
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BOWLING fans in the Capital have warned their game may soon die out after sports bosses revealed they were considering axing greens because they are not being used enough.

Officials at Edinburgh Leisure and the city council said the number of matches played at all five of the Capital’s municipal bowling centres has dropped since 2007 – with numbers using Balgreen and Leith Links plummeting to less than a third of what they were five years ago. They said the decline at Balgreen, Leith Links, Powderhall, St Margaret’s Park and Victoria Park had forced them to consider closing greens and converting them as venues for more popular sports such as tennis.

Bowls has a long and proud history in Edinburgh

Bowls has a long and proud history in Edinburgh

The admission comes after it was announced £100,000 would be spent turning a green at Leith Links into a tennis court, with managers at the council-run centre hoping it will nurture Scotland’s next Andy Murray. Bowls legend and former world champion David McGill, from Blackford, said: “If you don’t pay attention you will lose your game and we are losing our game. In Edinburgh, the numbers are getting to the point where the clubs are closing year-on-year – we are looking at the extinction of the game.”

But he said the clubs themselves were partly to blame. The clubs are struggling everywhere but they have failed to promote their game in a way that attracts younger people,” McGill went on. “It should be a foundation sport across the city and the country, and there’s no reason why kids could not be taken to a green for some healthy exercise.”

Ian McClory, secretary of Leith Bowling Club, said he was not surprised bowling greens had been slated for closure as many clubs in the Capital were already at breaking point due to falling membership. He said: ““Virtually every club in the town is experiencing falling membership and there is no bowling club that you could not join right away. In the 1990s there would be waiting lists of up to five years.

“At the club level it’s about managed decline – there are too many players in their 70s and 80s.”

He called on the sport’s leaders to boost the profile of bowling. He said: “We should be doing more to get the sport on TV and into people’s living rooms, and they need to be targeting people in their 40s.”

Bosses at the city council and Edinburgh Leisure said closing and converting greens was one of a number of options being looked at. A city council spokesman said: “We are aiming to provide a better match between the council’s sports facilities and the needs of local communities which, in turn, should lead to greater usage.”