Barry Hearn strives to sex up bowls
IF anyone can make bowls sexy, then it is promoter extraordinaire Barry Hearn as DEREK DAVIS found out.MARK Royal and Ceri-Anne Davies may not be household names just yet but they soon will be if Barry Hearn pulls off yet another sporting stunner.
IF anyone can make bowls sexy, then it is promoter extraordinaire Barry Hearn as DEREK DAVIS found out.
MARK Royal and Ceri-Anne Davies may not be household names just yet but they soon will be if Barry Hearn pulls off yet another sporting stunner.
After succeeding with boxing, snooker and poker, the Matchroom boss has turned his attentions to the traditionally staid sport of bowls, those played on a green rather than with pins in an alley.
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With a £20,000 prize up for grabs and live television exposure on Sky Sports, the crème-de-la-creme of the game could be catapulted to a new level.
And Hearn, who helped turn the likes of Steve Davis, Chris Eubanks and Bobby George, into household names, is ready to help Stowmarket-based bowler Royal, world number one Alex Marshall, pin-up and top-ranked woman player Davies move into a higher stratosphere of recognition and wealth.
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Hearn said: “There is a desire in everyone to be a star and we can do that. We have a good record in unearthing sports that are possible sleeping giants and giving them a higher profile.
“We have the ability to invest in bowls and experiment. We have Sky behind us and between us we have had massive success.”
With 34 years in the business Hearn has been phenomenally successful but is modest enough to admit trying to sell bowls to the mass market is a gamble.
Not that his enthusiasm has been blunted in anyway and he practically gushes when he talks about his newest venture.
So keen on it that Hearn is missing a boxing promotion of his in Glasgow to be at the Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton, near Lowestoft, this weekend so he sees the launch of Premier League Bowls.
Six of the best in the world, who all happen to be British, battle it out for the prize.
He said: “You are only as good as last trick but I have a good feeling about this.
“We wanted to call it Premier League Bowls because it is sexy and we want to bring that into the sport. There are things we can do, like with the clothing, to make it sexy and everyone seems very enthusiastic about it.”
The rules have been tweaked so games will consist of two sets of five ends, with two points for a win and one for a draw. There will also be a 'power play' when players can nominate one end to double the shots they score.
Four of the six competitors will reach the semis and the winner of the final picks up the £20,000 prize.
Hearn added: “Potters have been brilliant, Sky wants to be involved and all the players are very keen. But then the money is good so they will be.
“They have bought into it because we have sat down and listened to what they want, how they think we can make it better.”
But like it or not bowls has its image as being for, well let's say, the not-so-young generation, and inevitably Hearn has already had opposition.
He meets this with the same enthusiasm as he did when they objected to what he was doing without sports that are now blooming
Hearn said: “I have had a couple of e-mails and in a way I quite like criticism. There will always be people, as there were when I started with the darts and the snooker, who say 'leave our sport alone, we like it as it is.'
“But very often they become huge fans and more and more people come to their sport to play and watch.”
So does he play?
“I have done but I prefer my golf. I do enjoy watching it and I will be looking forward to this tournament.
“My daughter Katie has been the main mover behind it all. She is a very creative director and she has shown me what can be done.”
You can't help but get carried away by his enthusiasm and Hearn admits to not being much of a sportsman himself but knows how to put on a good show.
“I was probably a bronze for ability and a super gold for enthusiasm.”
And that can make even the most staid of sports sexy as bowls is about to find out.
N The PartyCasino.com Premier League Bowls tournament at Potters Leisure Bowl, in Hopton, Norfolk, begins today and ends Sunday evening.