Report by Paul “Porky” Maddock UK BEC Representative
Lille, France the venue for the 2018 Bowling European Corporative (BEC) Annual Championships and another attempt by teams from the UK arm of the organisation; British Corporative Bowling (BCB) to win a trophy that has eluded us ever since Halifax last lifted the 4 person team event one aloft in 2005. These attempts at what was the 48th staging of the championships saw the UK represented this year in just 2 of the 3 disciplines, the 4 person team and ladies doubles. A total of 10 teams from Barclays Bank, Royal Mail, British Airways, the RAF and RAF Veterans were entered in the 4 person event whilst pairings from British Airways and last but by no means least a joint entry from the NHS and Stroud Bowl competed in the doubles, this latter pairing taking advantage of the trial being conducted this year that allowed 2 companies to come together to form a joint ladies team.
3 sets of 3 games across 2 centres, gave bowlers a total of 9 games each to accumulate enough pinfall to qualify their teams for the semi-finals and hopefully following a further 3, the finals. In the 4 person team with the UK representing 10 of the 77 teams entered, on paper at least, the odds were on our side for some to make the top 24 whilst in the ladies doubles and only 12 going through those odds were slightly lower with our 2 teams battling against a total entry of 28. Although as you would expect in any tournament, the competitive edge is always there the tournament is also very much about friendships and the European bowling family with numerous life-long friendships being kindled and renewed annually. Traditional symbols of this is the exchange of gifts at the start of each qualifying match and the now much treasured team photo with your opponents as well as the coming together to celebrate the tournament at the Players party once the competition is complete.
With companies from 11 European countries represented and qualifying occurring over 3 days it was the RAF, RAF Vets and Barclays that lead the way onto the lanes for the British teams, the RAF setting the pace for the remainder to follow albeit against a 41 foot oil pattern that as its description stated provided some tricky conditions if you strayed just outside the BEATEN PATH. With all teams struggling to master the conditions it soon became clear that the competition was going to be close and just a few pins could make the difference between making the cut or not, a theory confirmed as at the end of qualification it was just 23 pins in the 4 person event and 21 in the Ladies doubles that was the difference between success and failure.
Needless to say there were the odd exceptions, the top 3 qualifying teams, Snijderbouw from the Netherlands, The UK’s Royal Air Force and Bowling Oy from Finland all sitting some 300 pins ahead of their nearest rivals and there then being a good 100 pins separating each of those with the leaders having accumulated a total pinfall to date of 7721 giving them a team average of 214. Individually there were 3 that were battling it out for supremacy, the RAF’s Chris Matthews currently leading the way having hit a 248 average after 6, but falling to a 236 average over his 9 games bowled with Jeffery Walker of Snijderbouw and Christian Koenig of the Berlin based Figaro’s 2 team both close behind on a 231. Team wise it was Figaro’s 2 that held the high game having hit a 956 whilst the RAF held the series amassing an excellent 2684.
So with qualification complete there were 4 British teams that had made the cut in the 4 person team, those being the Royal Air Force in 2nd a mere 131 pins behind the leaders, RAF Vets Victor, the first of 2 RAF Veteran teams to have qualified in 11th, the Royal Mail in 15th and RAF Vets Vulcan in 20th. As for the remaining teams, many had struggled to master the conditions and despite all having put up a great fight, unfortunately they’re races were run their finishing positions of 36th (Barclays London), 43rd (Barclays Poole), 45th (RAF Vets Valiant), 50th (Royal Air Force Raptors), 54th (RAF Veterans Varsity) and 60th (British Airways A380) meant they could now only support those that remained whilst also taking time to enjoy the many delights the city of Lille had to offer. As for the ladies they too had found it tough and despite our representative teams only being separated from each other by a mere 3 pins their 21st (NHS/Stroud Bowl) and 22nd (British Airways A320) positions were some 200 pins short of that required for qualification and destined them too to the role of spectators for the remainder of the tournament.
So to the semi’s and an 08:30 start at Planet Bowling Lomme with just 3 games to add to our pinfall to ensure we became one of the last 16 teams that would make up the final. With the leading teams positioned in the central positions on the lanes and the descending positions cascading out on either side it was just a case of bowling your own game, knocking over as many pins as possible and then waiting for the big screen on which the organisers were projecting the results with excellent efficiency to show you if you had made it or not. For the Royal Air Force this meant they were drawn on the same pair of lanes as current leaders Snijderbouw and could now hopefully use this as an incentive to focus and push themselves all the way to the finals with an excellent chance of making the podium.
The RAF’s opening game of 900 certainly made their intentions clear and with Snijderbouw only hitting 821 the gap was closed somewhat. Following this with an 828 2nd game against the Dutch teams 776, the boys in blue had brought it back to all square going into the last, where a slight wobble on their part saw Snijderbouw take the last by 770 to 760 to once again take the lead after the 48 games by just 10 pins, 10088 playing 10078. On the lanes next to this Bowling Oy choose this moment in time to demonstrate the quality of bowling we have naturally come to expect from the Fins as they showed consistency hitting 828, 836 & 832 over they’re 3 games to just pip the RAF as the top scorers of the squad with 2496 compared to the RAF’s 2488 and ensure they too were still in the fight for one of the 3 medal spots.
Other strong contenders from the set included Figaro’s 1 on 2481 which although pushed them up the table somewhat failed to reduce what was now a 350 pin deficit between the top 3 and their nearest rivals in 4th. Further down the leader board Vets Victor hit another steady set to finish 12th Royal Mail maintained their 15th position whilst Vets Vulcan hit a commendable 2390 series to just sneak themselves into 16th place and the final by a mere 48 pins to make it a full house for the UK with all four semi-finalists making the cut and in the final.
The focus of attention now moved to the second of the two hosting centres, Bowling Van Gogh as it was this centre that was to host the finals and with the road move complete there was just time to enjoy the local cuisine before everyone’s attention was once again well and truly fixed on the lanes and the next instalment of the Dutch versus the Brits versus the Fins. Yes there were another 13 teams all looking to improve their positions but in all reality and based on the form shown to date, not to mention the 350 pin gap, there was little chance (barring an absolute disaster from one of the three) of anyone catching them, so it was more of who was going to finish where giving that there was just 100 pins separating all 3.
So with the 16 finalists all lined up and with 3 of the brit teams positioned across adjacent lanes including Vets Vulcan drawn against Royal Mail by virtue of their qualifying positions there were no surprises where (for the start of the session at least) the focus of all the British support was coming from. However it wasn’t long before all the attention and support (and rightly so) started to move toward the centre of the centre as a focused RAF team set about chasing down and overtaking Snijderbouw so that at the end of game 1 it was them that now led the competition having hit 837 to Snijderbouw’s 709. The loss of the lead must have been the trigger that Snijderbouw needed as game 2 saw them well and truly with their game faces on amassing a total on 961 to leap back into poll position as the RAF struggled for a 759. One lane to the right the Fins were continuing their consistency rolling games of 803 and 859 to ensure the level of step each would occupy on the podium was going all the way to the wire. Game 3 saw all three making their final push and with each team having one eye on what the others were doing, all were making every pin count such that as they entered the tenth the final result was still up for grabs although was edging toward the Dutch’s favour. Every ball was now a pressure shot and as the frames wound down it was Snijderbouw and the RAF that held their nerve whilst the Fins faltered slightly ensuring that despite having seriously closed the gap they were unable to catch the RAF who in turn despite topping the scoring in game 3 were unable to pull back the deficit meaning that the Dutch were the 2018 BEC champions by 68 pins. A truly enthralling and nail biting final that bounced one way then the other and certainly brought the best out of all the teams and earned them all the full respect of each other and all that witnessed it. Congratulations to the Royal Air Force for making the podium especially in this the 100th anniversary year of the RAF’s Formation.
Bowling over there was just time to acknowledge and thank the hosts and the team that had put it all together as well as in time honoured tradition congratulate and present the prizes and trophies to the winning teams and individuals that had excelled over the last few days as well as awarding the Presidents cup for the country with the best results which this year went to the Netherlands for the first time in their history within the tournament. That action complete and the many photos taken the final act of the tournament saw the handing over of the flag to next year’s hosts Finland before everyone’s attention now turned to the adorning their party gear and enjoying the delights of the players party which as usual certainly lived up to its expected frolicking and unmistakable dance floor antics, all mixed in with some traditional local fayre and refreshment.
If any or all of the above has wet your appetite and you feel it’s something you would like to try for yourselves then why not give it a go and at the same time as representing your Company or organisation possibly have the chance to take the opportunity to see another European City. To fulfil this opportunity all you will need to do is to enter the British Corporate Bowling (BCB) Championships which is the UK qualifying event for the chance to attend the European Finals.
The event, scheduled for 17th – 18th November this year at Mansfield Superbowl is a joint scratch and handicap event organised and run to promote the Sport of Tenpin Bowling inside the realms of Companies, both large and small, therefore encouraging competition between these companies in a competitive but friendly manner. Currently there is no limit to how many teams a company may enter in either the team (4 person), Ladies Doubles, Mixed doubles or new for 2018 Mens doubles, providing each member of a team meets the laid down requirements within the eligibility criteria that is available on request and highlighted within the entry form once released.
Further details are available through the British Corporative Bowling BCB website
British Corporative Bowling (BCB) facebook pages
or through contacting the BEC UK representative at the following email address