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Bowls In Focus : January 2011
Bowls In Focus 9 We all agree that first impressions are important and the first thing you notice about John McArdle is a firm handshake and an all-engaging smile, along with the instant warmth and affection of a newfound friend. Although not tall in stature, McArdle exudes lofty doses of the calm authority, adroitness and charisma that are intrinsic qualities in powerful leaders. Mr McArdle is president of World Bowls Limited, the global governing body of lawn bowls. But more importantly John McArdle is a man of the people. Last October we saw him squiring HRH Prince Edward and Lord Sebastian Coe around Delhi’s Jawaharial Nehru greens on television during the Commonwealth Games; while last month revelers at the Norfolk Island Bowls Club watched him belt out the old Monkees hit ‘Daydream Believer’ at a karaoke night during the World Singles Champion of Champions. However, the 61-year-old Scotsman, who has spent most of his life in South Africa, is anything but a daydreamer, although his belief in the virtues and future prospects of his beloved sport is unsurpassed. As Marketing Manager for an SA Power company, Eskom – South Africa’s major electricity supplier – McArdle is still gainfully employed and may well be the sport’s ultimate volunteer as he utilises his annual leave quota to undertake the busy schedule of events and meetings around the world that his role demands. The World Bowls organisation was formed in 2001 when the WBB (World Bowls Board) and IWBB (International Women’s Bowling Board) amalgamated; and in the ten years since the inception has increased its affiliations by 35% to fifty-two national authorities from forty-six member nations. Mr McArdle succeeded our own Betty Collins OAM as president of World Bowls and is quick to admit that the current deputy president of Bowls Victoria was a ‘hard act to follow’. “We’ve been blessed to have fine leadership since 2001,” he said, “and I’m determined to build on the great work already accomplished. “We’ve got a way to go to become the vibrant international organisation my colleagues and I have envisioned, but we’re on the move and I anticipate the next 10 years will be exciting times.” To the inevitable question relating to the global decline in club memberships Mr McArdle was quick on the uptake: “We need to decipher between membership and participation,” he replied. “I’m well aware that there are hundreds of thousands of people who regularly play some form of bowls around the world but aren’t club members. I guess it’s similar to the dearth of people who play golf all of their lives but never join a club. “The question is how do we convert these people from social players into members? “National, state and regional bodies can market their heads off and create all the interest in the world, but ultimately it is up to the clubs and their members to entice these prospects to join up. “Sadly, there are people out there who expect the governing bodies to bring new members to clubs without any effort from themselves. On the other hand I’m also aware that many clubs are highly proactive and achieve the desired results. I’ve heard about the success that some clubs in Victoria such as Donvale and Glen Waverley have attained by undertaking disciplined promotional and membership drives.” So, where does the world leader feel membership growth can best be achieved? “Actually, I’m disinclined to accept that attracting young people should be the major thrust,” he continued, “as we all know how other distractions such as the opposite gender, career demands and alternative recreations can quickly turn a youngster’s head. “As a marketing man I’d cast my net at the 35-50 year-old age group. Their families have grown up and are less dependent on them, which allows more time to take up a new pursuit, while in most circumstances they have more disposable income to invest in a new lifestyle. “Similarly, I’d devote time and energy to attracting recently retired sportspeople who still have a competitive streak but are no longer physically able to meet the rigours of football, baseball, netball, basketball, cricket and tennis etc. “Any marketing expert will tell you that ‘word of mouth’ advertising is the most potent form of selling and this can be applied to bowls also. “You know, if every bowler in the world took up the challenge to attract one family member, friend, colleague or former teammate to join his or her club, and only half were successful, there would be an increase of 50% in membership. It sounds simple but with the right application and spirit it could become a reality. “But it’s vitally important that a new prospect is welcomed and immediately made feel at home. We should all remember how intimidating our first venture into a bowls club actually was and make sure any prospective new member is accorded the appropriate fellowship and respect. “And that is an aspect at which club leaders and fellow members must be highly proficient.” At time of writing Mr McArdle was about to board a flight bound for Rome and a meeting with the Confederacion Mondiale des Sports de Boules – a member of the IOC – to lobby for lawn bowls to be included as a future sport in the Olympic Games. Given the boundless enthusiasm and passion for the sport he radiates around the world we should assume that bowls will be very well represented indeed. - David Allen The sport’s supreme administrator shares his thoughts on... • Above: Norfolk Island chief minister David Buffett welcomes president John McArdle to last month’s World Singles Champion of Champions. • Below: World Bowls president John McArdle ruefully declares the recent championships on Norfolk Island closed. Membership Growth