Members of Bowls England have confirmed the widely- expected blow of relocating national championships from Worthing, which could cost the town’s economy up to one million pounds.
Bowls England county representatives voted overwhelmingly in favour of moving all events to Leamington Spa.
The issue was put to a vote by the national executive last Saturday, which voted by an overwhelming majority of 63 to 17 favour of moving all competitions to a central location at Royal Leamington Spa.
As a result, Worthing’s core summer economy is set to be dealt a significant blow, with hotels and restaurants in the area potentially being affected the most heavily.
The town will now lose its status as the “Home of English bowls,” which it has held since championships were first staged at Beach House Park in 1974. For many fans of the sport, its peak in Worthing came with the 1992 World Championships staged within the town, bringing global TV coverage.
Serious concerns had been expressed over the move by Worthing Borough Council leader Paul Yallop, who questioned a feasibility study on the future of holding the event in West Sussex.
He felt Worthing “had not been given a level playing field” over a decision on where to stage the competitions – with criteria being laid down by Bowls England of finding a central location. Consequently, Worthing Borough Council’s last-ditch offer of a 25-year extension to continue hosting the event in the town was rejected by the sport’s governing body.
Tina Tilley, of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, had described the loss of bowling as a “disaster” for the economy. She said attention urgently needed to be paid to find alternate forms of revenue to make up for its relocation.
David-Mitchell Gears, chair of the Bowls England Board, said: “We received a clear mandate from delegates at the AGM last February to consider a more central geographic location for the men’s national championships, which have been held in Worthing since 1974.
“We appointed a working group to consider this request in detail, taking into account various factors raised by delegates including a more central location, availability of accommodation and travel. The final proposal the working group received from Warwick District Council fully met all of the identified requirements. I must add, like many bowlers, I have an emotional attachment to Worthing but this decision is best for the long-term future of our sport.”
Speaking to the Herald last month, Tony Allcock, Bowls England chief executive, said it was a tough call between Worthing and its rival at Leamington, which hosts the ladies championships.
He said: “The offer from Warwick District Council will secure the national championships for this and future generations of bowlers, and give Bowls England a concrete base from which to develop our sport at all levels.
“On behalf of Bowls England I would like to thank Worthing Borough Council for the professional manner in which it conducted itself throughout our negotiations. We look forward to working with them to ensure that the 2013 championships prove to be a fitting finale to 40 years of national bowls championships at Beach House Park.”