The future of the Bowls facility at Stoke Mandeville and how it will affect the BWBA
I write on behalf of the BWBA Executive with news about the bowls facility at Stoke
WheelPower, the brand name of British Wheelchair Sport, has decided that the bowls
facility at Stoke Mandeville is no longer economic and will be closing it, probably
by the end of December 2011.
This message was first relayed to me in the middle of April. Since then there have
been discussions within the BWBA Executive and with Stoke Mandeville IBC and on Friday
3rd June with members of the WheelPower board. I attended that latter meeting along
with BWBA Patron David Rhys-Jones.
The original decision to close the facility was, we were told by WheelPower Chief
Executive Martin McElhatton, taken unanimously by the WheelPower Board in November
2010. And it was clear from that meeting that David Rhys-Jones and I had on the 3rd
that this decision to close the Bowls facility was not open to negotiation.
WheelPower’s case is an economic one. They say the facility is losing a significant
amount of money each year; losses, which they say, will only get worse as SMIBC membership
numbers decrease. Membership numbers are decreasing at SMIBC, this is fact and acknowledged
by the Club’s officials.
But there is more than economics after all. We, the BWBA, are a significant wheelchair
sport – arguably one of the founding wheelchair sports who are in effect being evicted
from the home of wheelchair sport by the governing body of wheelchair sport. And
all this will happen in the twelve months running up to the London 2012 Paralympic
Games. I am not sure you could make it up!