The end of a popular bowls tournament in Worthing has been described as ‘the final nail in the coffin’ for the sport locally as players reacted to the news.
Organisers of the Worthing Unified Open Bowls tournament have cancelled the competition after Worthing Borough Council declined to continue offering free parking for competitors during the two-week event.
They used to park in disused tennis courts in Beach House Park, but they have now been turned into a pay and display car park.
The council said it had offered the club heavily-discounted tickets there – but the tournament will be coming to an end after 90 years. Click here to read more.
John Scadgell, president of the Worthing Unified Bowls Tournament, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ that the council had decided to charge bowlers to park in Beach House Park during the contest.
He said the event had been a big economic boost to Worthing: “There was a time when the council sponsored the entire event which benefits hotels, guest houses, pubs, shops and restaurants bringing in much needed business to the town.
“Regular competitors and their supporters come from all over the country – Greater London and Devonshire to name but two – and many treat the occasion as a holiday.”
Mr Scadgell said Worthing had become well-known for its ‘excellent greens in a seaside setting second to none’, and should be proud to host an event like this.
He said: “My father, many years ago, won a gold medal for bowls in the Commonwealth Games and Worthing Council honoured him with a magnificent clock. He was very proud, why can’t we all have pride in our town and give bowls the support it deserves.”
Tricia Elton, from Langbury Lane, Ferring, is a longstanding member of Homefield Park Bowling Club, which also plays at Beach House Park.
She had been a vocal campaigner for the free parking to continue, and said this latest development was ‘horrendous’ news. She said: “The council says they want to back bowling in Worthing – they don’t. They are going to eliminate it soon.
“They are putting the final nail in the coffin for bowls.
“We are talking about people’s lives here. Elderly people dedicate their lives to the game; it keeps them out of doctor’s surgeries and being miserable.”
Betty Potts, 78, from High Salvington, has been playing bowls at Beach House Park for 25 years. She said: “I think it is shocking because it has been going for 90 years and it brings in families to the town.”
She said claims they should park for free by Brooklands lake and get the bus were ‘absolutely ludicrous’, and feared that this could preceed the end of Worthing’s bowls clubs.
“I just don’t think our club will be able to go on,” she said.
The Worthing open men’s competition began in 1933, with a ladies’ event running from 1944. Falling numbers in the women’s section saw the first unified event held in 2009. Worthing lost the men’s national championships in 2012. The prestigious event has been held in Royal Leamington Spa ever since.