The Berkeley and District Skittles League was formed in 1957 and currently consists of 87 teams in 6 divisions playing a winter
league from September to the following April. Matches are played on 15 alleys in pubs and clubs in Berkeley, Sharpness, Cam,
Dursley, Wotton-under-Edge, Slimbridge, Rockhampton and Leonard Stanley all in the southern end of Gloucestershire.
In the League campaign, each team will play every other team in their division twice, one match at home and the other away. Each division (usually) has 16 teams so each team will play 30 league games during the season. All players must be registered with the League (for one team only) and there is no limit to the number of players that a team can have registered. Teams may be single or mixed gender, but players must be over 16 years of age in order to play in the League.
League matches are played with 8 players per team over 8 legs. At the start of the match the captain from each side lists the names of 8 players down each side of a scoreboard. Traditionally the home team is on the left hand side of the board and although captains may toss a coin to decide which team bowls first, generally play commences "as the board" - i.e. the first player (setter) of the home side bowls first, followed by the setter of the away side.
Play then alternates between members of each team whereby each player bowls a hand of 3 balls at 9 pins set in a diamond until the 8th player (anchor) of each team has bowled. This is repeated until 8 legs have been completed.
The winner of the match is quite simply the team with the highest total number of pins knocked down. Two points are awarded to the winning team (nil for the losers) and in the event of a draw, teams are awarded one point each.
As a general rule, an individual player over 8 legs would (hope to!) score around 50 pins with a team's total score being around 400. However this can vary somewhat as some alleys are "high-scoring", some "low-scoring" due to the difference in the lengths of alleys, the size of the diamond, the size/weight/condition of the pins/balls and players' scores may be influenced by the amount of alcohol consumed...
Alleys are in the region of 30'-50' in length - pins are generally "Gloucester" style barrel-shaped and around 8"-10" high and 4"-5" in diameter at the centre - balls are around 4"-5" in diameter.
At the end of each season, generally two teams from the top and bottom of each division are either promoted or relegated.
Two knockout competitions are also played for during the season with matches taking place on a neutral alley.
Any team may elect to take part in the All-in Cup which is played using the same scoring as per the league, although should a game be tied after 8 legs, additional legs are played until a winning team can be determined.
The other is the Front-pin Knockout which is also optional for teams to join. Matches are still played by 8 players per team over 8 legs but the rules of play vary slightly in that a player doesn't score in each hand until the front pin has been knocked down. Again additional legs are played in the event of a tie.
Teams in the League are made up of players of all ages (some have still been playing in thier 90's) but with 87 teams, it means that over 650 people are involved in bowling around 16,000 balls to knock down somewhere around 34,000 pins - every week! And let's not forget the stickers who have to send all those balls back and stand all those pins up again...
The League's orginal website was published in September 2007 and went through a major rewrite into its current guise late 2018.
Sharpness Dockers Sports and Welfare Association, The Docks, Sharpness, Gloucestershire, GL13 9UN