11 Aug 2019

Breathing new life into the world of lawn bowls

From Sunday Morning, 7:22 am on 11 August 2019

There's a revolution happening in the world of lawn bowls. The ultimate bowls championship (UBC) has started up and very swiftly gained momentum with fast games, big prize money and extensive TV coverage.

Players go up and down the lawns five times, and each game of bowls lasts less than half an hour.

The first round of this new international competition was in April, and the second round was in Melbourne this weekend. The concept has taken off, it's already been viewed by millions of people in 22 countries around the world.

Chemistry student at Auckland University Rebecca Jelly, 27, is the co-founder of UBC and she will be competing at Melbourne.

Rebecca Jelley, Carlton Cornwall Bowling Club

Rebecca Jelley, Carlton Cornwall Bowling Club Photo: suppled

Jelly is herself a keen bowler but realised the sport could do with a facelift to attract younger players.

“Something more exciting, fun and engaging, especially for the younger generations,” she told Jim Mora.

“I've been playing for about 12 years and I love the sport and I love the social aspect and there's just so many benefits for all sorts of people to get involved.”

The sport has been picked up by sport channels in 22 countries and it’s all happened very quickly, she says.

“I think we've just hit the magic recipe for something that people see the potential in and see the excitement. We've got a great team, we have links to TV in different parts of the world so obviously, that's helped. But it's all about what we offer in our product.”

The prize money is also attractive, she says. The winner gets $150,000 (Australian). And the prize money is attracting top players, she says.

“We've got players from all around the world and the world's best bowlers involved. Of course, the first draw card is the prize money.

“But it's also the format is exciting, what we've done is we've integrated technology, so players are getting real time feedback on their statistics and how they’re going and a lot of innovation.”

With traditional bowling clubs under pressure to sell up, often they sit on valuable land, Jelly believes UBC could reinvigorate lawn bowling in New Zealand and around the world.

“I think rather than closing down the clubs, you can get a lot more benefit from increasing the membership and getting people out there.”

Jelly says it turned out her PhD studies were a good grounding for the world of international sports marketing.

“What I've found is that the skills you obtain from doing a PhD translate beautifully into business. It's all about time management, problem solving, and putting your mind to something and trying to make something really amazing from it.”