NBA lives on but the Delancey green's future is still bleak

UNTIL the rains arrived, they had been packing the bowlers in up at the Beau Sejour green this week.

Beauty spot still in danger: Bowls at Delancey where the view makes it one of the most picturesque greens to be found anywhere.
(Picture By Peter Frankland, 28361335)
Beauty spot still in danger: Bowls at Delancey where the view makes it one of the most picturesque greens to be found anywhere. (Picture By Peter Frankland, 28361335)

Terrific to witness and for the remaining weeks of the truncated 2020 season that green sward is likely to be bulging with two clubs operating at the same venue.

But, what now for the old Delancey club who have been given somewhere to play while their own rink is inoperable?

From published comments of NBA captain Paul Wakeham, the Northern Bowling Association aims to return to its home of almost 90 years, in years to come.

Not next month, unlikely next year but at some distant time in the future.

While I wish them well and admire the optimism, I struggle to see it happening without some remarkable turnaround in membership numbers and outside influence, including financing, which is key.

The ever-reducing NBA membership cannot cover the reasonable upkeep costs and even the Guernsey Bowling Club will be hard pushed to do so, even with the NBA people on board.

GBC, still reeling from the loss of its hard-working and ambitious president Joe Thompson, will survive.

Delancey is another question entirely.

Unless you are 70 years of age plus, it remains a brilliant bowls venue in normal circumstances.

You would struggle to find a more picturesque bowls setting in the world and retaining it is key to Guernsey remaining an option on the international bowls circuit.

But the big problem is that too many of the NBA members are beyond their 70th birthdays and perched halfway up a hill with no close parking, it is not comfortably accessible for many. Bowling numbers are falling.

But it would be a disaster if the Delancey green is lost for good.

Some solution needs to be found for the good of the sport here as a whole and the umbrella body Bowls Guernsey, who will also need to replace Thompson, needs to act quickly, as does the St Sampson’s douzaine.

Does the parish want to sit back idly and let the green just become a useless patch of weeds, even more unsightly than the once well-utilised tennis courts which are now lost?

I see only one way out for the Delancey venue and it involves a combined effort of Bowls Guernsey taking charge and becoming wholly responsible for funding, sub-letting the venue for what is left of the NBA who can use it on an agreed schedule, while BG utilise the green for new island-wide open competitions.

At the same time the parish, who were gifted the facility in the first place by the family of super-parishioner Sir John Leale, surely must contribute in at least a small way to the pot and, along with the bowlers, help targeted St Sampson’s businesses to form a charitable group of Delancey friends very visibly contributing to the parish where they profit from.

As it is, the park is only going the same way as the slopes north and south of it – downhill.

Football has gone, tennis too.

Bowls may soon follow.

At the same time, within a mile radius north, hundreds of new homes are earmarked to turn the district into a concrete jungle which makes maximising its parish park all the more important.

Even in testing post-pandemic times, Delancey must not be forgotten.

FOOTBALL domestically is set to resume in a self-contained fashion.

What a relief for the game and, who knows, it might be back in a competitive form quicker than anyone imagined.

Word is it that GFLM want to get going as early as the start of August.

Indeed, there are those who are suggesting that perhaps the school holidays would make for an ideal time to get juniors playing properly again – not just training – while pulling more disaffected former players back into the sport when it will be buzzing to the tune of Premiership and European professional restored for virtually the entire summer.

Yes, club pitches are still in mothballs being prepared for the 2020-21 league and cup campaign, but there is grass available at various secondary schools, as well as Delancey and Cambridge Parks.

Playing games, at least at the lower end of the age scale, might well be appealing on the light evenings, but Inside Track understands it is even being suggested games could kick off in the late afternoon.

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