A TOWN bowls club is raising money for new equipment to become more inclusive and disability-friendly.

Darlington’s South Park Bowls Club is hoping to raise £5,000 to pay for a special electric chair that will let disabled people to get low to the ground and play bowls, while also not damaging the lawn.

The chair costs about £2,000, with around half of that being covered by Darlington Council, but the club also has its eye on colourful new equipment to attract new members, including small lawn balls so children can get involved too.

Club secretary Scott Morland, who has played the sport since he was 11 and took on the role 15 years ago, said: “We’re really trying to build a future for the club and the sport.”

The club, being based at South Park, experiences a lot of footfall and it is these people Mr Morland hopes to attract through the likes of events and open days.

Last year, South Park established its first female team and has now turned its attention to children and those with disabilities, in a bid to become more inclusive. It has gone from one team, in 2004, to ten.

“People think bowls as just old men, and in some places it is, but if the sport is to survive it needs to be for everyone,” the 40-year-old added.

“I really want bowls to be here for a long time. Around 80 per cent of our membership is new and these people bring fresh ideas and a new lease of life.”

Out of the clubs in Darlington, Mr Morland says the only ones currently wheelchair-inclusive are indoor.

He also explained it’s difficult for South Park’s club to fundraise because it doesn’t own the land it’s on, making operators of large sporting grants hesitant as “the council could just decide to put up flats”, despite the organisation having council backing.

While 2020 was going to be “their year”, South Park Bowls Club has puts its plans for events and fun days, where fundraising would also take place, on pause due to the Covid-19 breakout, and has instead turned attentions to its 125th anniversary in March 2021.

Visit South Park Bowls Club on Facebook for information and the fundraising link or click here.