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ECBA rules v Thomas Taylor rules: A Comparison

Whilst all the counties and clubs associated with the ECBA play by the same set of rules, there are a number of clubs across the country who are not affiliated with a county and who are therefore not part of the ECBA.

As a result some of them have adopted different sets of rules by which to play. One such set come from the bowls manufacturer Thomas Taylor. If you buy a set of their woods they come with a set of rules and not unnaturally some clubs have taken on those rules.

While the principles involved in playing by the two sets of rules are much the same there are a few significant differences.

For the most part the equipment described in the Thomas Taylor rules are the same, the carpet (and markings), the woods, the jack and the centre are identical. However there is one piece of equipment which is missing which leads to by far the most significant difference between the two sets of rules.

Under the English rules a bowler must deliver their wood through
an 18 inch wide delivery area which is marked out at each end of the carpet.

Two blocks are placed along the edges of along the lines to ensure that a bowler does not bowl outside of the designated area.

This area and the blocks do not appear in the Thomas Taylor rules. Instead the rules state that when delivering a bowl the player 'must take up his stance in line with the centre of the rink and have one foot entirely behind the carpet'.

The breaks what might be regarded as one of the guiding principles of carpet bowls as played under the English rules, which is that no one must stand on the carpet. When bowling the player must have both feet behind the mat and having any part of the foot on the carpet is an infringement which would result in the delivered wood being declared 'dead'.

In the same way that the centre is there as a restriction upon the bowler, preventing a running shot directly at the jack, unless it has been moved off line, the delivery area also restricts the bowler, preventing the player from reaching out to get a better angle at their target.

The Thomas Taylor rules also state that 'when not in the act of playing or directing, players must not stand on the carpet'. This rules therefore allows the skip to stand on the mat in order to give directions. In this sense it makes the game more akin to lawn or indoor bowls where clearly there is no restriction on where the players are able to go.

However this is strictly forbidden under English rules, on the basis that by standing on the mat the woods might be disturbed, albeit by accident. This is something which can easily occur given that mats are usually laid on hard floors and can be caused to move, and also that the floor is more often than not uneven and any movement might cause a wood which is not laying on it's back to fall over thereby altering the head.

Movement of the Jack
The other major difference relates to the jack. Under ECBA rules if the jack is driven off the mat by a player the opposing team is awarded 2 shots, whether the act of doing so was accidental or deliberate. But under Thomas Taylor the rule is different.

That rule states that 'should the jack be driven by a bowl in play wholly beyond the limits of the rink it shall be counted dead and the head shall be played again'.

Whilst there are circumstances where an end might have to be replayed under English rules, for the most part every this is very rare and by and large ever end will count, even if there has been no score (ie if a wood from each team is touching the jack).

The term dead end is often heard when playing under English rules, but more often than not what is meant is that there it was a 'no score live end'. The Thomas Taylor rules are such that dead ends will be a much more frequent occurrence.

Other differences
The rules allow for a game to be played to a particular number of shots, while English games are either played for a set number of ends or a set amount of time (both of which are also allowed for by Thomas Taylor).

Woods bowled out of order are stopped and then replayed in their proper order under Thomas Taylor while in the same wood would be considered dead under English and cannot be played again.

The game as played under the Thomas Taylor rules might be regarded as being one step closer to the outdoor game than ECBA, the small but significant differences make it a game that is perhaps a halfway house between ECBA and Short Mat Bowls.

Posted 25/11/13

To avoid any possibility of copyright infringement Thomas Taylor's rules have not been reproduced here.

Update 21/05/14
The ECBA have been in contact with Thomas Taylor who have agreed to remove their own set of rules from any sets of woods sold in the future, replacing them with a notice directing the purchaser to this website.