Belfast to get Disability Bowls Hub pilot programme to promote inclusion in the game

 The Belfast Disability Bowls Hub aims to “ develop athletes to represent Northern Ireland at prestigious international para and visually impaired events"
Michael Kenwood

Belfast is to have a pilot programme for a “Disability Bowls Hub” after it emerged Northern Ireland has the poorest provision for disability in the sport across the UK.

At a recent Belfast Council committee meeting, elected members agreed to the support of a pilot project up to a maximum of £6,000 for a Disability Bowls Hub in Belfast, to highlight the short and long-term aims of Irish Bowls Federation in Para and Visually Impaired (VI) development.

A council report for its People and Communities Committee states: “In 2022 the Irish Bowls Federation undertook a club engagement survey achieving a response rate of 73 percent.

“The key findings and emerging priorities include the under-representation of women and girls, a disability gap with a surprising lack of active playing members with a disability and provision, and an ageing demographic.” Other issues include the survival of clubs and sustainability and growth.

The report adds: “The IBF have agreed to focus upon one emerging priority area, namely, the provision of more sporting opportunities for people with disabilities. They have identified Musgrave and Grove Bowling Pavilions as potential sites to develop the Disability Hub given the availability of indoor halls for all year-round use.”

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which currently does not have para or VI bowls representatives at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.  Bowls Scotland, Bowls England and Bowls Wales all have the necessary programmes and infrastructure in place.

The council report states the Belfast hub aims to “ develop athletes to represent Northern Ireland at prestigious international para and visually impaired events and have in place the necessary infrastructure to facilitate their preparation, training and development.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Geraldine McAteer: “I think this is a fantastic project, and it is £6,000 that will be very well spent. I’m particularly excited that Musgrave in my own constituency is one of the potential sites.

“There are very few opportunities for children and people with disabilities to engage in sport and I think this ticks a number of boxes. There is no doubt bowling has declined somewhat in recent times, so there is an availability here. But there is also an opportunity for people to be engaged.”

The short term programme, between June and September this year, will see the provision of new equipment, engagement with local community groups and schools,  and the allocation of experienced bowls coaches.


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