BOWLERS have changed their mind and given their backing to a suggestion games in their league should be contested by teams consisting of fewer players.

It is not a new idea.

Indeed a proposal for matches to become 10-a-side has been rejected repeatedly at the Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association’s annual meetings.

“It’s a subject that never seems to go away, like Brexit,” quipped Clive Nelson, the league’s secretary, when members gathered for the 2019 edition.

“I hope it’s the end of the matter, at least for a few years, after the latest vote.”

His wish may have been granted.

Less than half an hour later, 30 clubs present at Owley Wood Club in Weaverham passed a notice of motion tabled by Wharton Rec – and supported by Rudheath – for fixtures in all sections below the Premier Division to be 10-a-side.

But only just.

It was a second vote too; the first, which called for every division to be included in the change, hadn’t gone their way by a slender margin.

“We’ve been haemorrhaging teams for the past few years,” said Mark Winnington, the special council’s vice-chairman.

“Are we prepared for that trend to carry on?”

He used Acton Bridge-based Hazel Pear as an example.

They fielded a single side in Section Two last season but were considering whether they could do so again because of a shortage of players.

“Last year we had two dozen people that wanted to play,” said Brian Davies, from Wharton Rec.

“That’s not enough to put out two teams of 12 every week and so we had to pull one of ours out when the motion failed.

“That left us with 10 or so bowlers unable to play regularly.

“If the outcome is different this time then we’ll apply for the second team to return.”

Representatives from Barnton Cricket Club and Hop Pole indicated before the vote they were minded to do similar.

John Knapper, speaking on behalf of the Crewe club, added: “We want to support bowls, and the best way of doing that is to get 20 people playing the game every week.”

A compromise that maintained the status quo in the league’s top-flight, while supporting change further down, suited Frodsham Red Lion.

Their spokesman, Gary Spencer, admitted opinion was divided there.

In his report, league results secretary Dave Jones revealed there were 21 walkovers in games last season – less than half the total he quoted in 2017 – due to teams not having enough players available.

“That’s a whole lot less than every other league in the area,” remarked Ray Plant, his predecessor.

Jones reported he was optimistic that figure would drop to zero next season.

The motion, passed with 26 votes in favour and 23 against, proposed that ties in both team knockout competitions – the Littler Cup and the Whitby Cup – change to 10-a-side too.

A further adjustment is all matches below the Premier Division switching to a later start time of 6.45pm.