LOSING the prestigious National Men’s Bowling Championship to Leamington Spa after 25 years would be a “tragedy” for Worthing.
Hotels, B&Bs and pubs said the loss would be devastating, after Bowls England’s members said parking and accommodation in Worthing was too expensive, and the board should look at relocating to central England.
Bowls England has approached Warwick District Council to consider moving the men’s bowls competition from Beach House Park, Worthing, to Victoria Park bowling greens, which already host the Women’s National Championships, in Leamington Spa.
Bowls England has appointed a working party to “review the future of the national bowls championship venues”, but the chief executive said that does not mean it will not stay in Worthing.
Tony Allcock, chief executive of Bowls England, said: “We have actually approached Worthing council as well, immediately.
“Bowls England, as the national governing body, is formed of 35 county associations across the length and breadth of England – from Cornwall to Northumberland.
“Our members have made it clear that due to the current economic situation, especially the rising cost of fuel, they wished us to investigate the use of central locations for all national championship events.”
Mr Allcock added the location of the Bowls England headquarters, which are also based at Beach House Park, Worthing, “will be a matter for future consideration” after the championship venue is decided.
Beach House Park has been hosting the national competition for more than 25 years, and hosted the Men’s World Bowls in 1972 and 1992.
Worthing Borough Council said it will be looking at all options to keep the competition, and does not feel parking is a “game-changer”.
Chief executive of Worthing Borough Council, Peter Latham, said: “My prime objective is to see what we can do to keep them here.
“We have been probing, because I do not think we’re that much more expensive, but if that turns out to be a key factor then we will naturally work with B&Bs and hotels.”
Mr Latham added that the 10-year NCP off-street parking contract expires in 2014, and after that the council will have “a lot more freedom” to deal with the needs of the people attending the championships.
Tina Tilley, chief executive of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, said losing the competition would affect the town’s tourism.
She said: “We would not want anything that’s a tourist attraction, and an income generator as big as that to leave the town because it brings a lot of tourism here.”
The Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, experiences a boom in customers during the competition.
General manager, Peter Clinch, said: “We would be very disappointed to see it go, it’s a great pull for Worthing.
“The whole of Worthing fills up when the bowlers are here.”
B&B manager Christine Turner said it would be “awful for Worthing” if it was to lose the bowls championship.
Christine manages Benson’s guest house in Brighton Road, Worthing.
She said: “If the competition moves it will have a massive impact.
“We have only been here for three years but we have always been full for the bowls, because we inherited the people that stay when we took over.
“We pay for their parking so that’s not an issue.”
Anne Heath is the landlady at the The Royal Oak pub, in Brighton Road, Worthing.
She said: “It would be disastrous for us because that is our busiest time of the year.
“We pay our business levy and we pay all these business rates so the council should be doing something to get it to stay here.”