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Carpet Bowls goes European
During the recent Festival of Carpet Bowls at Potters, along with the other folks who pop in from time to time to see what's going on, it might surprise you to learn that there were some visitors from overseas.

You may not be aware that Carpet Bowls is a sport which is being played all around the world. And while it might not be a huge surprise to hear that it is popular in places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it is starting to get a foothold in countries a little closer to home.

In fact, places like Norway, which is where the group in question had come from. They were visiting for a couple of days as part of an ongoing dialogue with the ECBA which goes back more than a year.

Norwegian Carpet Bowls
The original contact with us came from a representative of Bowls Sweden, Tommy Dahlgren, who himself had been contacted by the Norwegians to help them get Carpet Bowls up and running in their country.

Although the game is widely played there is no universally accepted set of rules, almost everyone has their own version. Even New Zealand and Australia, who play each other at an international level, have different rules from one another. But Sweden and now Norway have, importantly, chosen to adopt the English Carpet Bowls rules.

With the support of the the Norwegian Directorate of Health the game had been introduced with the aim of helping to improve physical health and, although it is still early days, they now have several clubs and they have even played a match against Sweden.

Visiting England
Having contacted the ECBA Chairman, Mike Walker, the upshot was a visit to the English Triples at Braintree in September 2014 where they were able to get a look at the event and see how it was run.

Following on from that, earlier this year, in February, a team of Norwegian bowlers came over to play against Bedfordshire. As you can read from the report here (Bedfordshire Carpet Bowls) and here (Bedfordshire Today), it was only a small group and naturally they were a good deal less experienced than their opponents, but the fact that they made the trip over here is remarkable in itself.

And so to this latest visit to Potters which was an opportunity to see the game being played on a larger scale and comes back to the reason why the game was established in Norway, because the group consisted mainly of officials from Norwegian Health.

Their interest comes from recognition that an ageing population needs opportunities to be more active and ties in with an initiative from the World Health Organisation.

Ageing Population
It is a commonly heard complaint that there are not enough young people coming into the sport and that the participants are growing ever older, however this is something which the Norwegians are not only not concerned about, but are positively embracing.

The health authorities there recognised that, with a population that is growing older, they need to consider prevention rather than cure, and that means regular exercise. And Carpet Bowls fits the bill.

Added to that is the fact that it is “low threshold”. Everyone can take part, it is free (thanks to government support), mats can be rolled out anywhere and it provides older people with a social network, which is very important at a time of life when people often find themselves losing their partner.

European Bowls
The Norwegian initiative has led subsequently to interest from other countries, with Germany, Denmark and even Latvia so far showing an interest, although it is still very early days.

This in turn has led to discussions regarding the instigation of a European Carpet Bowls Federation, talks about which are ongoing, with the possibility of a meeting later in the year at Potters, to coincide with the National Championships which will afford the visitors the opportunity to see the game being played at it's most competitive.

Next Steps
Having seen the Festival in action it is now the intention of the Norwegians to pay another visit, in 2016, but this time to participate.

It is of course still early days, but at the time of writing they are talking about bringing over a contingent of some 30 players.

Again it should be stressed that the exact level of their involvement has yet to be finalised, but if it happens this represents a very exciting step for Carpet Bowls.

And of course it opens up the possibility for something more formal in the way of international events in the future with English Carpet Bowls working with Potters to do whatever is needed to try and make it happen.

This article has now been reposted on the Potters website.