History of the Laws of Bowls

It is to a Scot that we owe our appreciation for the democratic spirit in which the game of bowls is played in that he drew up a complete code of laws which were adopted and have formed the basis of our present laws.

He was William Mitchell, a Glaswegian solicitor, and although the reading of those laws as originally written is amusing in their simple dated terms we can see how our present laws were derived.

There were, however, earlier Laws of the Game, which were drawn up to suit the game as played in the time of King Charles II. This game bore little relation to the game as we know it.

Mitchell's laws sufficed from the time they were drawn up in 1850 until the formation of the Scottish Bowling Association in 1892, who as one of their first tasks had a revised set of laws drawn up. This provided for the first time a standard minimum bias for bowls.

In England things were a little confused. Not until a joint New Zealand / Australian team of bowlers arrived for the first international bowls tour, did it become apparent that an organisation to administer such events was required.

Also there was the question of "Who's Laws do we use". The Scots were reluctant to allow their laws to be used as they had taken the step of copyrighting them. To solve these problems the Imperial Bowling Association was formed and drew up their own Laws of the Game, but as can be imagined, followed closely the Scottish laws.

Incidentally, it was on the above occasion that the Australia Cup was presented to the Imperial Bowling Association and has been presented to the winners of the "Fours Championships" at National finals every year since.

In 1903 the English Bowling Association succeeded the Imperial Association under the leadership of the famous W. G. Grace, followed closely by the Welsh and Irish associations, and most importantly the International Bowling Board. The name of this organisation was changed to the World Bowls Board and subsequently to World Bowls Ltd.

This Authority has become recognised internationally as the sole authority for production and revision of outdoor laws, which except for slight modifications for local conditions, apply to every country where bowls is played.

 

English Bowls Umpires Association 2007