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Vandal-Hit Bowls Club Set To Fold

Vandal-Hit Bowls Club Set To Fold: Middleport Park Bowling club is to fold – ending its 108 years of existence.

The club, traditionally one of most successful in North Staffordshire, will play for the last time this year after members called time because of vandalism and also council costs.

Vandal-Hit Bowls Club Set To Fold

Middleport had been asked to pay around £2,500 to Stoke-on-Trent City Council to maintain the green.

An alternative was a self-management deal in which members would take on the responsibility for looking after the green themselves.

But they have reluctantly rejected that idea because of vandalism, including people playing football and golf on the green and riding bikes over it.

The club, founded in 1910, will play for this season at Clough Hall then cease to exist.

Chairman and treasurer Keith Williamson, aged 65, has been connected with the club since he was 13.

He said it was a difficult decision to call time on a club which was one of the best in the area in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s when they were regular winners of the Sentinel Cup.

However, he said the fee of around £2,500 was too much.

 He said: “That was the ballpark figure but they had said it would rise over time. We were offered self-management but there were the vandalism issues.

“But the problems started when the council first made the cuts and they got rid of the park rangers around 10 or 12 years ago.

“The main thing is football on the green but also people riding bikes on it. We have even been down there and people have been practicing golf shots on it.

“It is a problem that lots of parks are having now. There might be a gassy bank on the other side, but they prefer to play on the bowling green because it is flatter.”

Williamson said the council had offered the club a free mower and made them aware of grants they could apply for, but after careful consideration they decided it wasn’t feasible to carry on.

Now he and other members have cleared the pavilion as they reluctantly decided the club must fold.

He has thanked Clough Hall for making the team welcome for this year. Middleport have a strong connection with Clough Hall because their former captain Mick Harvey played there before joining Park in 1980 and skippering the club to major success. Mick died in 2014.

Williamson added: “It is a sad day, we are one of the best known and have been one of the most successful clubs in the area”

Middleport is one of several clubs potentially affected by council cutbacks.

The Sentinel reported in October that the council had also begun consulting with clubs at Anchor Road, Meir Hay; Beauford Street, Longton; Bucknall Park; Campbell Road, Stoke; Tunstall Park; Northwood Park; Smithpool Park, in Fenton; Burslem Park and Watson Road, in Trent Vale.

Councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “We have met with all the bowling clubs in the city and offered them options and support to keep running.

“This has included a 50 per cent reduction in what they would pay to maintain the green for the first 12 months; advice on how to set up committees and access funding for example through the council’s Community Investment Fund, as well as the offer of free lawn mowers and training in how to use them. It’s disappointing that none of the options offered were acceptable to the club at Middleport Park and that they have taken the decision to wind-up.

“Bowling green maintenance is costly. It is labour intensive and requires a lot of specialised equipment and other materials. We understand the value of bowling in terms of social contact and health. However, the simple truth is that the number of people using some greens is falling far short of being able to justify the expense in the light of other more popular demands.

“We will continue to work with other groups who have expressed a desire to keep their club running and we hope to reach positive outcomes with as many as we can.”

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