A major contribution of Eddie Elson to the crown game was his part in consolidating a single set of rules wherever you played, with the help of Jack Uttley and Jack Isherwood.
Basically, the laws of the game have changed little in the last 50 years, alternatives and additions being made to meet situations arising through the spread of the game. A major overhaul took place in 1979 to update the laws and ensure all bowling was played under these rules as laid down by the governing body – the British Crown Green Bowling Association. Up until then there were many local variations, notably the so-called ‘Blackpool Rules’, which allowed two casts of the jacks and stamping, ie efforts to accelerate the progress of a bowl. Another local rule in many competitions was the use of a player’s own jack, which could vary considerably in bias.
Realising that it was in the best interests of the game as a whole, Eddie’s recommended changes were accepted – including standardisation of jacks to two full bias. Since 1980 there have been no changes in the laws of the game, possibly the longest period for many years.
There are 41 laws, which are wide-ranging and cover all aspects of the game. As in all sports there are times when an odd incident occurs not specifically covered by a particular law – such as if a strong wind blows a jack off the green. However, to cover every possibility would require a whole volume. The following basic laws are framed to cover singles and pairs; seldom are other combinations played.
One of the most controversial aspects of the game prior to 1980 was the condonement of the practice of ‘stamping’ the foot alongside a bowl to endeavour to gain a few more yards. This was never allowed under BCG Rules, but was widespread in many competitions – particularly in the north-west. It is now completely outlawed and after one warning and the loss of a bowl, the offender may have his bowls taken off the green and the game awarded to his opponent.
Not all players are in agreement with the law which penalises a player – by loss of a bowl – for bowling a bowl other than his own; many think it should be replaced with the proper bowl. As yet no significant effort has been made to change the law.
Referees are instructed to insist and see that games are played in accordance with the laws of the game, and should any dispute arise during a game which is not covered by the laws, the referee must make a decision which is final. By and large, if the spirit and intention of the laws of the game are adhered to, there should be little or no trouble. It is only when players seek to interpret the laws to gain unfair advantage that problems arise.