TORFAEN bowls clubs face an uncertain future after the local authority ruled clubs should self manage their facilities – leaving them facing annual costs of up to £10,000.
Fears have been raised for members of clubs in the Eastern Valley, many of whom rely solely on the clubs to stay fit and healthy, as well as socially active.
The Eastern Valley Bowling Association (EVBA) has written to Pontypool Community Council asking for financial assistance on behalf of the Garndiffaith and Pontypool Park mans and ladies clubs, with the cost per club, per annum, estimated at between £4,000 and £10,000.
Secretary Bob Price wrote: “We find the average age of bowlers would be about 70 years of age, this is the only type of sport that keeps them healthy and fit.”
Speaking to the Free Press, Mr Price, who is the secretary of Garndiffaith Bowls Club, said eight Eastern Valley clubs were facing testing times ahead, with membership fees likely to rise steeply to help cover costs.
“We have already started maintaining facilities at a cost of around £700,” he said.
“We have had to insure the club house, cut back the hedges and fertilise the greens. We officially assume responsibility on April 1 but the clubs starts playing on April 5, we wouldn’t have time to get ready if we left it.
“To survive, fees will probably have to double. We just have to hope that people can afford it and that it doesn’t deter them.”
Cllr Godfrey Jones, himself a member of Pontypool Park Bowls Club, called on concessions to be provided to clubs.
He said: “I would say that 75 per cent of club members are pensioners. There is one guy, Don Taylor, who is 92. He plays with the club several times a week. It has become a way of life for him. Without it, he would basically be imprisoned in his own home, with nowhere to go.”
He also said he saw no way for clubs to raise the running costs year after year, with clubs facing closure unless they can afford to maintain their greens and the clubhouses.
Maintenance of facilities isn’t limited to bowls clubs, with rugby, football and cricket grounds all affected. Handing over responsibility will save the council £300,000.
A council spokesman said: “As part of the 2014/15 budget, clubs will be required to agree to a self-management lease whereby they will take on full responsibility for their ground’s management and maintenance.
“As part of the new arrangements clubs will no longer have to pay a fee to the council and will ultimately have more control over their own grounds. We are currently in discussions with the clubs to help facilitate this transition.”