The tension surrounding stringpin bowling

string pin bowling

by Helen Tamblyn-Saville

I’ve been following the comments about string pin bowling with interest this week, following the announcement about Airport Bowl and then the statement the BTBA released today. I’ve been on the fence about wading in, but I’ve decided that I want to add my two pence worth. My opinions are my own.

I love tenpin bowling (I spend virtually all my time working on the sport) and I am disappointed like the rest of you that string pin is becoming so prevalent. I was gutted to hear about Airport Bowl converting. That said, being objective, appreciating that these centres are businesses and needing to make money, I accept that for many centres, it makes business sense to convert.

The problem with bowling is that it is different to most sports. Cricket clubs own their own cricket grounds where they play. Football clubs own their own pitches. Tennis clubs have their own courts. Tenpin bowling doesn’t own its own centres so we are at the mercy of the owners. Yes, bowlers give them revenue all year round and we are there in the summer when it is empty, but if a centre decides to convert to strings, it’s because it makes business sense and we are virtually powerless.

I don’t want the sport to die. My heart doesn’t want to play on strings. But my head recognises that we need to work with what we have and this defeatist attitude of “I’m quitting”, “it’s a fairground attraction”, “the sport is ruined” is not helping matters in the slightest. We need to accept that these changes are happening and we need to work with what we have. We have got to stop assuming that stringpin bowling is a bad thing before we have even tried it. Instead, accept it’s different, but it’s still bowling. We are still torturing ourselves with trying to hit pins 60 foot away – that fundamental hasn’t changed. And that’s why we need to sanction, it’s not just coming, it’s already here. We need to work with it.

My personal feelings are that it could be considered a separate classification. The same, but different. Indoor athletics is the same as outdoor athletics, but there are differences. The athletes don’t see it as bad because they are running slower or not throwing as far, it’s just different. I think that’s how we need to see stringpin bowling and that’s how I personally would like to see it managed, with stringpin records kept, etc. There’s a lot that needs to be considered.

That said, I think we as bowlers need to have a good look at ourselves as well. If centres are converting to strings for business and financial reasons and risking losing their leagues, they are doing it because it makes business sense. We don’t pay as much as open bowlers, yet we demand the benefits of oiling, etc. We pay less for a premium. The flipside of that is that we are there all year, whereas the public disappear on hot sunny days but bowls will generally make more from open play. We generally aren’t grateful. Every day, I see bowlers moaning about their “s**thole centres”. I’m guilty of that too, but does that make the bowl feel valued? We demand, we moan, we don’t pay so much. We refuse to eat in bowls and nip to the nearest fast food joint. I understand in many centres that bowl food isn’t great, but it’s another example of not supporting the bowl. Bowlers bring in their own drinks. The public will buy from the bowl. If you don’t want to see your centres disappearing, support them. Work with them.

I don’t think it will be strings that kills bowling. It’ll be us bowlers.


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