Live television coverage of the Waterloo tournament – the biggest crown green competition in the country – has been backed to help bring a major boost to the area.
The Co-operative Funeralcare has agreed a £50,000 sponsorship deal to bring to back to the screens 26 years after it was last screened by the BBC.
This year’s handicap finals will be televised live on free to view channel ITV4 from 10am to 5pm on September 15-16, along with a highlights programme.
“This is a huge piece of good news, not only for bowls but for the Waterloo and the whole surrounding area,” said Mark Audin, bowls manager at Waterloo for last three years and who lives on nearby Gladstone Street.
“I’ve lived in Blackpool for the last 20 years and when I first arrived the area was fine, but it has just gone slowly down and down, like a lot of Blackpool’s back streets.
“This is a big, big boost and now I just hope people come and support it.”
The Waterloo has been taking place since 1907 and is recognised as the prize crown green bowlers most want to win.
Mel Evans MBE, a bowler who helped negotiate the TV comeback, said: “It is tremendous because the Waterloo is the home of bowls, the Wembley of the sport, and it is so important to get terrestrial television involved.
“It will show the sport is alive and kicking and we particularly want people from Blackpool to come and support it.
“It’s great for the whole town and a shot in the arm for a competition which has a great history and goes back more than 100 years.
“To get two days live uninterrupted days of TV coverage for the last 16 and the finals is the best news that has happened to the sport in the years.”
The sport is watched and played by over 150,000 officially registered members of The British Crown Green Bowling Association (BCGBA) across over 2,540 affiliated clubs.
News of the live TV coverage has been enthusiastically received across the bowling fraternity.
Lee Heaton, who won the Waterloo tournament in 1996, said: “This place is bouncing when there is a big crowd in. When there is 3,000 in watching it is almost scary.
“Hopefully now it’s on TV we’ll get a big crowd like that in.”
“It is great news for the competition and it gives the sport a lot better coverage than it has had over the last couple of years.”