Fit 4 Future Purpose Clubs Project

by corourke on February 4, 2022

About the Fit 4 Future Purpose Clubs Project

In the first half of 2022 Bowls ACT has engaged Mike McLaughlin and McLaughlin Sport Consultancy to undertake a project to investigate club business models and the future of bowls participation in the Capital Region. The following will outline some further information for members and stakeholders about the project and its outcomes.


To support Bowls ACT affiliated clubs to implement operating models which are fit for future purpose, to enable a sustainable and vibrant future for Bowls in the ACT.

Bowls Australia (BA) and the State/Territory Associations recognise that membership and participation are fundamental to the success of the sport in an increasingly competitive environment, in which Australia’s population is increasingly conscious of the importance of health and leisure, but at the same time, is increasingly ‘time poor’ and receptive to sport and recreational pursuits that enable participation within the constraints of a busy lifestyle.

Figure 1 (below) shows that formal, or registered, Bowls playing membership has decreased progressively across Australia since 1980. Playing members of bowls clubs nationally in 2020-21 were only 35% of those registered in 1980. Over this same period (1980-2021) the Australian total resident population has increased by 75%, from 14.69 million to 25.70 million, at an average annual rate of 1.4%.

Note: In the ACT, playing membership numbers have declined by approximately 40% in the past 10 years.

Whilst Playing memberships have decreased nationally (and in the ACT) very significantly over recent years, social participation has increased – in some cases very significantly. This shift in the consumption of Bowls represents an opportunity for ACT bowls clubs to future proof their business models and capitalise on this growing market segment.

Bowls membership and participation 2010-2021

Note: In the ACT in 2020/21 only 15% of total participants are pennant players.

Capital Region Bowls Clubs need business models which enable them to thrive, not survive! How these clubs turn the problems they currently face into opportunities and implement new strategies to increase membership and participation rates to te national average (and above); and restructure and diversify club business models away from traditional club revenues, will be key priorities for this project.


In 2019, the ACT Government, in partnership with Bowls ACT, commissioned an independent Strategic Facility Review of Bowls in the ACT to assist with future planning considerations for the sport. The Review identified a number of key challenges currently facing Bowls clubs in the ACT, a summary of which is presented below.

Key Challenges Identified

  • Bowls Clubs are facing a significant decline in membership and players. This is the most significant and immediate problem that Bowls Clubs face and must be addressed if the sport is to survive and thrive. Declining memberships are driving declining revenues and diminishing clubs’ capability to adapt to the changes required to attract new members and participants.
  • Many clubs are no longer able to rely on electronic gaming machine revenue to underwrite facility maintenance as they have in the past.
  • Larger community licensed clubs who have historically funded greens maintenance through the Community Contributions Scheme are challenged on a larger scale as inflation in maintenance costs means that maintenance costs now exceed revenue.

The ACT government see great value in supporting a vibrant and sustainable future for Bowls in the ACT and following the completion of 2019 Review, has provided Bowls ACT with funding to undertake this Fit 4 Future Purpose Clubs Project. Bowls ACT is extremely grateful for this support.


McLaughlin Sports Consultancy has been engaged by Bowls ACT to drive the Project. A Project Reference Group (PRG) was established to provide strategic insight to MSC throughout the project’s lifecycle (refer below).

David PrussPresident – Bowls ACT
Garry GreenDirector – Bowls ACT
Sharon HarmerRepresentative Bowler – Weston Creek Women’s Bowling Club
Cheryl CorbyPresident – Goulburn Railway Women’s Bowling Club
Shane HollandVenue Manager – Town Centre Vikings
Ciaran O’RourkeExecutive Officer – Bowls ACT
Jeremy WilcoxSecretary Manager – The RUC (Turner)

How and When?

Stage 1 – Project initiation meeting (14 Jan 2022) MSC to facilitate a project initiation webinar with the BACT President and EO.
Stage 2 – Project Reference Group (PRG) meeting (27 Jan 2022) MSC to facilitate a project initiation meeting via webinar with the PRG – e.g. BACT EO, 1-2 BACT Board members, 3-4 key Club representatives.
Stage 3 – Document Review (Late Jan – Feb 2022) MSC to undertake a thorough document review to become familiar with all relevant BACT and club strategic information, e.g. BACT facilities review reports, current BACT and club strategic plans, annual reports, governance and staff structures, financial models, operating models, BA optimal governance model project outcomes, BACT and club membership and participation data, BACT participation, commercial, digital; and other plans in place + other relevant information, as available/recommended by the PRG.
Stage 4 – Clubs Survey (Feb 2022) MSC to development, disseminate and analyse data to come from a bespoke club e-Survey. Draft survey provided to PRG – 3rd Feb, PRG feedback to MSC – 8th Feb, survey live 9th-23rd Feb.
Stage 5 – Stakeholder Interviews (1-3 Mar 2022) MSC to prepare for and facilitate up to 20 x 1-on-1/small group telephone interviews with key stakeholders (e.g. BACT, representatives of each BACT affiliate club, ACT government, BA, other BA STAs).
Stage 6 – Clubs Focus Group Session (Mid-April 2022) MSC to prepare for and facilitate a 2-3 hour face to face focus group session with 2-4 x representatives of each BACT affiliate club (e.g. up to 40 people).
Stage 7 – Findings and Opportunities Paper (10 May 2022) MSC to use all evidence collected and analysed via Stages 1-6 to develop a comprehensive Findings and Opportunities Paper, including club business model design concepts and strategies designed to restructure and diversify club business models away from traditional club revenues; and to support Bowls ACT to rebuild its revenue base through growing membership across the ACT.
Stage 8 – PRG meeting (Late May 2022) MSC to facilitate a project initiation meeting via webinar with the PRG to discuss the contents of Stage 7 (above).
Stage 9 – Fit for Future Purpose Club Operating Models Design Lab (5/6 Jun 2022) MSC to prepare for and facilitate 5-6 hour a face to face design lab with up to 30 key stakeholders (i.e. PRG and club reps) to check and challenge Fit for Future Purpose Club Business Model design concepts and strategies. This co-construct process will also identify potential stakeholder responsibilities, necessary actions and agreed consultation that may be further required for the Club business model/s to progress to implementation. The definition of potential barriers to success and how these may be minimised and/or eliminated will further support an improved model for implementation (refer Stage 11).
Stage 10 – Fit for Future Purpose Club Operating Model Design Lab – Findings Summary Paper (10 June 2022)
Stage 10 – PRG meeting (20 June 2022) PCG meeting to share the findings to come from Stage 9 (above) with the PCG and to confirm and finalise the PCGs preferred Club Operating Model concept design/s.
Stage 11 – Implementation Plan (30 June 2022) MSC will use information collected in Stage 10 (above) to develop a detailed, yet user-friendly Fit for Future Purpose Clubs Project (Restructuring and Diversifying Club Business Models)Implementation Plan.

Next Step

All members of Bowls ACT Affiliated Club Boards / Management Committees will receive a link to a specifically designed e-survey on 9th February, which they will be asked to complete by 23rd February.

Note: All elements of the ACT Bowls community will have the opportunity to have input the project – stay tuned for more Information.

Project Contact – for more information about the project, please contact:

Ciaran O’Rourke
Executive Officer
0499 587 783
Office Hours – Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday