A season which began amid great uncertainty for crown green bowling at The Waterloo in Blackpool looks set to end with its prestigious finals week taking place as normal in September and brighter hope for the future.
READ MORE: How The Gazette reported The Waterloo's troubles back in May
A new committee is being formed to steer this year’s iconic Autumn Waterloo tournament to a successful conclusion and develop a strategy to take the historic venue forward.
In May, The Gazette reported that a public appeal for donations had been launched to help safeguard the 112-year-old South Shore bowls arena following the cancellation of the Spring Waterloo and structural problems which forced the East stand to be demolished.
Co-ordinating the new management structure is Kirkham bowling enthusiast Ricky Cochrane, 45, whose passion for the sport is boundless. He told The Gazette: “I’ve been playing since I was seven. I have won competitions, including the Marton Institute Classic, and I’ve run competitions, as well as managing the North Lancashire and Fylde team.”
What matters most in the short-term is that the draw for the final 64 of the 2019 Autumn Waterloo will take place later this month ahead of finals week, starting on Saturday, September 21. The final will be staged the following Wednesday along with all the week’s traditional events, culminating in the Champion of Champions on September 28.
Ricky thanked Mark Audin, who ran bowling at The Waterloo for several years, and asked for maximum public support to start a new era for the venue on a firm footing.
He told The Gazette: “I was involved with The Waterloo a few years ago and now I want to help them get to the end of the season successfully.
“We are working with the governing body on risk assessment. We’ve had a structural report and the venue is fit for purpose, though we need to level the space where the East stand was.
“In the longer term we need to sort out a new lease to make Lottery funding possible but for now we can’t look too far ahead.
“It’s about getting to the end of the season and I know a lot of people are willing to help. It would also be great to see local businesses and authorities helping us moving forward.”
In an official statement he added: “There is a lot of work to be done as we seek a way forward to enable The Waterloo to create a firm foundation against which both short and long term plans can be put in place.
“The new committee will start work on this immediately. We cannot guarantee we will be successful but we will certainly make every possible effort to resolve matters and create a viable way forward.
“The Waterloo now needs your support more than ever before, so if you can give some time to help the committee please get in touch and please, please support us at finals week in September.”
Among those who will help in any way he can is five-time Waterloo champion Gary Ellis.
He told The Gazette: “I’m happy to be involved and I’ll try to help. As I understand it everything will go ahead for this year but there are a lot of issues for the future.
“The lease situation is extremely complicated and the financing of the Autumn Waterloo needs to be fully understood with a view to possibly benefitting from Lottery funding in future.”
A shoulder injury has prevented Manchester-based Gary from competing for a second successive year but he fully intends to lend his support at the UK’s only purpose-built outdoor bowls arena next month.
He added: “Things are more positive than a few months ago. It looks like we will get through the year, then we will have to work through the issues and look to progress in 2020.”
Cochrane is especially keen to complete the task of refunding all players who entered events which were cancelled earlier this year or who could not manage the new dates for rearranged tournaments.
He added: “This is a priority of the new committee. I want everyone to get their money back and then we can reassess at the end of the season.
“Can I thank all bowlers who offered to donate entrance fees to The Waterloo? It is greatly appreciated.”