COVID-19 Pandemic – We speak to the British Tenpin Bowling Association

What will sport bowling look like in the UK for the rest of 2020 and into the future? As some countries begin to look at coming out of lock down our thoughts move to how the BTBA will deal with things post COVID-19.

It is not exactly easy to do social distancing in leagues and tournaments so we caught up with the British Tenpin Bowling Association Chairman Martin Webster for the latest BTBA thinking.

Sport in general was caught off-guard as the COVID-19 Pandemic began to make its mark. Following Government instructions, we find ourselves today unable to bowl and uncertain of how the sport will look in the future. I am guessing it has been a busy time for the BTBA looking at all eventualities?

It is now 5 weeks into the lock-down and we all continue to cope and adjust to the restrictions of this unprecedented National emergency. Discussions are on-going in many areas with Proprietors and other Associations to keep abreast of current thinking. I would like to personally thank all of our members who continue to stay at home to slow down the spread of this virus and allow our fantastic NHS to cope and save lives.

A time now for reflection and planning to make sure the competitive sport is safe for members and their guests. You are already in contact with the TBPA and hopefully working to some solutions. Could one of them be for Sports leagues or tournaments to be held using a one lane only scoring system?

Discussions with other Associations around the World and the TBPA here in the UK have resulted in a number of thoughts on this subject. Some ideas as to how this may look are as follows:

1. Taking temperatures of every visitor before entering the bowling centre
2. Providing Hand Sanitizer at the front door
3. Centre staff wearing face masks
4. Only allowing a small central selection of house balls for general use with each one regularly sanitised. No balls on racks.
5. Shoes regularly sanitized
6. Limit the number of people per lane keeping at least one empty lane between groups
7. No sharing of bowling balls
8. Sanitizing equipment and surroundings after each group have finished

Leagues and Tournaments would have to follow these restrictions but this will need further investigation once centres re-open as we continue to work closely with the Proprietors.

It could be fair to say that 2020 is pretty much done in terms of tournaments being held and only if the official medical advice changes do we re-start. Right now, what is the general feeling of 2020 and a re-opening of the sport.

I want to reassure the bowling community that when restrictions are eased, we will work with the Government, Sport England, our leagues and the Proprietors Association to risk assess how our sport at both grass roots and high performance levels can return safely with the appropriate safeguards in place. The truth is we do not know the timing of this return and can only hope that we can see bowling centres re-open later in the year albeit on a restricted level.

TBPA General Secretary Gary Brimble suggested that bowlers should support local centres when cleared for opening by bringing their families to enjoy social bowling until such times as Sport bowling returns. Would you echo this advice.

The Proprietors face a very uncertain time and we need to support them as much as possible with social bowling as this equates to a large proportion of their income. With over 400 bowling centres in the UK, we need these centres to survive and flourish going forward for the good of the bowling industry. Hospitality has been identified as being critical to the global economy and we need to encourage families to be active for both their health and mental well being.

The 60th anniversary is coming up soon and 2020 will go down as an historic moment in time. In the current World of uncertanty, what positive message can you send out to bowlers in the UK and indeed World wide.

There will certainly be a big difference in what we used to call normal going forward, as we will have to find ways to keep social distancing as part of our everyday lives. The BTBA know how difficult and challenging this time has been and are heartened and encouraged to see lots of our members and bowlers throughout the World supporting each other to get this wonderful sport back on track. Hopefully, a return will not be too far away. The one message that stands out is that we WILL survive this and eventually enjoy getting back to our social bowling, regular leagues and tournaments throughout the UK and indeed, across the World.

What Next?

These are the tough questions we will all be asking as the World slowly wakens from this induced coma. Soon enough, we will know the real impact and knock on effects of opening doors to some form of normality. On behalf of the BTBA, I would like to thank everyone for your resolve, support and patience during this difficult time and ask you all to keep safe.