Can Players Throw a Match in Lawn Bowling?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 14, 2023

Yes, lawn bowlers can match fix. Sadly there have been instances where players have deliberately lost a match in order to predetermine the outcome.

Why would one deliberately lose a game in lawn bowls?

There are two reasons why a player in a singles game (or a team) would deliberately throw a match in lawn bowls:

In the first instance, sectional tournament play is to blame. This is where all the players are divided into sections, creating a mini-tournament within a tournament. The winner of each section (mini-tournament) goes on to play the winner of the next section according to a predetermined draw. The winner of that match then goes on to play the winner of the next match and so on, until you get to the final winner.

Key here is that the players can see which team is going to play which team in the case of a win or a loss so they can start to meddle with the way the play-offs will go.

Unsporting players may decide to throw a match in order to elevate the opposition to a higher position of the pre-determined draw so as to allow an associated team (for instance from the same club or state as the match fixers) a better chance in the next round.

That was the accusation levelled at the top New Zealand player, Gary Lawson, in 2009, when NZ lost a match to Thaliand at the Asia Pacific Championships in Kuala Lumpur in August 2010. The Canadians complained

NZ lost 17-15, with another NZ team having already qualified for post-section play, and Canada alleged the Kiwis lost on purpose to earn a more favourable quarterfinal draw.

The case caused a furore in international bowls and resulted in a disciplinary hearing at NZ level resulting in fines for each of the players in the fours team and a six-month suspension for Lawson, the skip.

Gary Lawson Accused of Match Fixing

Why would you chuck a match in a singles game?

Let’s say there are four players in a section, players A, B, C and D. Let’s say A plays B and A wins well. Now A plays C and A loses. So A and C have each won one and lost one.

Meanwhile B and D have played each other and B loses – so B has lost both.

Now D must play C. If C loses then C has won one and lost one. D has won both.

D meets A in the play-off because A had a strong score when he won. Player A must win, and win well, to win the section and have a sporting chance later on.

But what if D knows that the winner of the section will meet someone he really likes and who could probably beat A given his buddy’s current form.

If D feels that he himself is not performing well he could decide to lose, even just by a point or two, so that his buddy meets the weaker player later on.

If you don’t think this sort of thing happens, think again. Bowlers can be a crafty lot; ask the Controlling Body of any tournament organiser.

Gambling in bowls also leads to match fixing

Another reason bowlers may throw games is to win money.Many social players spice up their weekend and evening bowls by gambling on the outcome of games. Add a bit of alcohol to the mix and before you know it the players are throwing games to win a couple of bucks. This does not happen at the higher levels of play, fortunately. That is because lawn bowls is not a fully-fledged professional sport and therefore the stakes are not high.

Preventing match fixing in bowls

It is hard to prevent skullduggery in lawn bowls. Clever dicks always find a way to buck the system, from going over the selectors’ heads to changing the rink draw to throwing matches and by levelling baseless accusations.

At club level I have found that by using a seeding system of some kind to level out the sections (for example, a very good player, two good players and a less experience player) the outcomes will be more just and dampen temptation. Avoid putting four top players in one section because only one player can win the section.

This could lead to a boring tournament where a top player has to wend his way through a couple of days of meeting mediocre players just come out on top. And it could lead to players seeking advantages outside the rules.

Match fixing is the very opposite of bowling etiquette

Everything about the etiquette of bowls militates against this sort of behaviour. Throwing a match is unsportsmanlike (to put it mildly). And to launch a nation-level complaint in this genteel sport, as Canada did in the Lawson example above, is just as unsporting. I mean, who complains about winning a game? Well, Canada did. Very poor indeed.

The trouble with match fixing in bowls is that it is hard to prove. The game is devilish difficult as it is. How do you prove that a succession of poor shots was really planned? Unless you have audio/video of players conspiring to throw a match you really have only the accusations of those who feel they lost out in the circumstances.

World Bowls regulations on match fixing

One good thing about the Lawson case is that it caused World Bowls to tackle the matter of match fixing. The applicable section in World Bowls regulations now reads as follows:

PART VIII Offence of Betting and Match Fixing

13. Offence of Betting and Match Fixing

13.1. A Bowler or an Official shall not directly or indirectly (through an Associate or
otherwise), alone or in conjunction with another:
21 June 2020 P A G E 11
13.1.1. Bet on any Game in which he or she, or any Associate or Official, is
involved; or
13.1.2. Participate (whether by act or omission) in Match Fixing.
13.2. Reporting and confidentiality
13.2.1. A Bowler or an Official must report any actual, possible or attempted
Offence of Betting and Match Fixing to their National Authority and/or
World Bowls but shall not otherwise report or discuss the alleged Offence
of Betting and Match Fixing except in accordance with this Regulation.
13.2.2. The National Authority and/or World Bowls may request any person
making a report in accordance with Regulation 13.2.1 to provide
particulars in writing. If so requested, the Bowler or the Official involved
shall provide such written responses within the time period specified by
the National Authority and/or World Bowls.
13.2.3. Any report made in accordance with Regulation 13.2.1 shall be dealt with
confidentially by the National Authority and/or World Bowls unless
otherwise required or permitted under the Regulations, the Laws of the
Sport or at law, or unless already in the public domain.
13.2.4. Any statement or media release regarding any alleged Offence of Betting
or Match Fixing shall only be made following determination of the matter
in accordance with this Regulation, except as is deemed appropriate or
necessary to protect or preserve the reputation and goodwill of the sport
of bowls.
13.3. Disciplinary procedure
13.3.1. If a report of an alleged Offence of Betting or Match Fixing is made under
Regulation 13.2, the matter shall be dealt with in terms of Part X of these
Regulations whether or not it occurred at a World Bowls Event or
otherwise