Shropshire bowling league makes history with decision to allow women players
Women will finally be allowed to play in Shropshire's top bowls league after clubs voted to admit female competitors in a landmark decision.
There have been previous failed challenges to the Salop Leisure Shropshire Premier League rules that only allowed men to compete – the most recent in 2015.
At the league's annual meeting on Tuesday night, in an historic move, the members voted narrowly to change the rules to allow women players, with seven votes for, five against and two abstentions.
Meole Brace, in Shrewsbury, the host club for the annual meeting, had proposed that the word 'male' be removed from match rules.
The decision opens the door for top Shropshire Ladies stars like Tracy Ryan from the Meole Brace club, Sonya Lucas from the St Georges club and Cheryl Caswell from Bylet, to play in the12-a-side matches from this year onwards.
League chairman and Hanwood captain Mark Shore said it was good that the issue had been settled.
He said: "I am pleased we have got a resolution and can move forward. It is good for the game and shows that we are progressive and looking forward."
He added: "The time had come for the league to make that decision.
"Some clubs have reservations of course but I think in time they will be proved unfounded."
Mr Shore said the league had been set up with the intention of providing a side to compete for the national Crosfield Cup – an all-male competition.
But he said that there were a number of women players who would comfortably hold their own in the men's game – including some who have been national champions in the ladies' game.
Mr Shore said: "The league was set up 25 years ago to get the best 14 sides together so they could be playing top quality bowls to improve Shropshire's chance of winning the Crosfield Cup.
"That is still the major aim of the league – to ensure we get good quality bowlers to produce a Shropshire county side and, unfortunately, the ladies will not be able to play in that because it is a male competition run by the governing body of the sport.
"But that does not mean there is not a place for those lady bowlers in Shropshire.
"There are a good proportion of lady bowlers who are as good as players in the premier league now."
Tracy Ryan, 53, a Meole Brace member who has been bowling for 29 years, welcomed the decision.
She said: "I am over the moon, very pleased. It will help my game because obviously I will be playing very tough games. It is just what we wanted.
"I really enjoy playing them and hopefully I will learn something from them."