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The Crawley Bowls & Croquet Development Group

The Crawley Bowls & Croquet Development Group

Would you like to have fun and meet new people? The town’s bowls and croquet development group is behind an initiative to get people involved regardless of age, experience or sporting prowess – I spoke to the group’s chairman Rod Saward to find out more and how you can get involved. 

The sport of bowls dates back to the 13th century and for generations has been a popular leisure activity whether as lawn bowls, short-mat bowls or ten-pin bowling and today it has a global reach as a competition sport with lawn bowls featuring as a medalling event in the Commonwealth Games.

However, all too often there is a perception that bowls is a sport for the elderly and those in the twilight of their life. Rod Saward, Club Captain of Crawley Town Bowls Club is on a crusade to change that opinion and is doing all he can as Chairman of Crawley’s Bowls and Croquet Development Group.

Rod, who used to work for Crawley Borough Council set up the group in 2001 once he retired to help bring the bowling clubs of Crawley together. In the past the multiple bowls clubs in the town worked on their own projects and did not fully collaborate in the successful way that they do today.

An all-rounder when it comes to sport, Rod who played football until the age of 60 and who has experience of being both a football and swimming coach says that bowls is a sport for anyone of any age as it is a level playing field whereby players do not have a distinct advantage of age or gender.

The development group supports the young and the old in it’s work, Rod said: “Putting back gives me immense happiness. Seeing the kids with the joy of sport gives me a lot of pleasure.”

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The Bowls and Croquet Clubs Involved
Crawley Town Bowls Club, Langley Green
Southgate Park Bowls Club, Southgate Park
Hawth Bowls Club, Southgate Park
Downsman Bowls Club, West Green
Blind and disabled bowlers, West Green
Popes Mead Bowls Club, Willoughby Fields
Grattons Indoor Bowls Club, Pound Hill
West Sussex Short Mat Bowls Association
Crawley Croquet Club, Worth Park


In the first session of the group, 20 young people turned up and of that three went on to play at a national level. Rod is quick to point out that as well as the sporting benefits, bowls is a great social activity – bowls is both a summer and winter sport so it is great to get outside in the fresh air.

Rod said: “All are welcome regardless of age, the young might join now but it’s not about now.

What we do is sow a seed. If we plant something now in future life – maybe 20 to 30 years’ time they might return to the wonderful sport of bowls.’

“For some of our older players bowls might be the only social interaction they have all week. It’s a sad reflection of the society we live in but those who attend often say they wish they had done it years ago! We promote the lovely sport!”

Today, under the umbrella group the clubs work together effectively and in collaboration with Crawley Borough Council are able to oversee facility maintenance, better organisation and legislation
support where it comes to working with young and vulnerable people.

Bowls is far more casual today than it once was – the formality for club sessions has gone with polo shirts and shorts largely replacing pressed trousers and the ties and in that vein the group helps to promote croquet as well as with a mission to combat the image of croquet as being an elite sport.

What motivates Rod? Rod said: “As I once said at a club AGM, I don’t want to be looking down from the big bowling green in the sky and watch our sport die. We must move with the times and wake up – we’re now in the 21st century.”

For more information about The Crawley Bowls & Croquet Development Group and how you can get involved with playing bowls or croquet in Crawley, call Rod Saward on 01293 538785.

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