BOWLS organisers believe the sport on a local level is “heading for a train crash” after City of York Council more than doubled maintenance fees for council greens.

They say this will make it too expensive to play - affecting older players’ health given it’s their main source of exercise.

Clubs who play on greens at Clarence Gardens, Scarcroft Road, Glen Gardens, The Retreat and West Park have been told fees to maintain the venues would go up from £2,000 a year to £5,000.

That will see clubs turn to private contractors, costing about £4,500, but the knock-on increase in membership fees means organisers fear losing so many players it would signal the end of local bowls outside of private clubs.

Graham Bell, secretary of the York Amateur Bowling Association (YABA), said: “The greens have deteriorated year on year with the council saying they don’t have the staff to do it, and then we were told either the price would go up to £5,000 or we’d have to maintain them ourselves.

“Most bowlers are the wrong side of 70 so doing it ourselves is a no-no so we have to get private contractors.

“Club membership used to cost £10 a year. When the council started charging £2,000 it became £40. From next year when we have to pay contractors we’re working on £75 and people are already saying they can’t pay that.

“If we commit to paying contractors £4,500 and half the bowlers turn up, it means the rest have to pay £150, and then they’ll all go home.

“Then the clubs are left with a £4,500 bill and nobody to pay it. It’s heading for a train crash.”

He added: “It’s the only exercise a lot of people get. The Government says pensioners need to exercise but then cuts funding to councils who then close the greens or make it too costly to play. Not many of us still play football or cricket, let’s be fair. We could end up very close to being private clubs only. While their greens are better it still prices lots of people out.” The issue will be discussed at YABA’s general meeting on October 25.

City of York Council were approached for comment, but were unable to provide one before The Press went to print.