Elderly members of a 140-year-old bowling club have been turfed off their green – after a string of complaints about rowdy behaviour and vandalism during matches.
Pensioners who play for the New Inn Bowling Club, based in Harborne, Birmingham, were left shocked after killjoy bosses kicked them out last week because of their “poor levels of etiquette.”
The new licensee of the pub – who owns the green – accused the OAP bowlers of noise nuisance, smashing up toilets and not bringing in enough revenue.
Landlord Matt Scriven, 39, has now banned the 35 members from playing on the plush 82ft (25m) green – and plans to turn it into a beer garden instead.
It is the oldest bowling club in Birmingham and teams have played four times a week ever since it opened in the 1870s.
Shell-shocked pensioners – some in their late 70s -vowed to fight the ban.
Just weeks away from the new season, and having splashed out £500 on fees, club chairman John Beeston, 76, fears it is “the end of an era” for the club.
He said: “In 30-years I’ve been a member we’ve only had one complaint, and that was from the pub manager.
“As far as the noise is concerned, I thought that was quite accepted – you get teams cheering on their players.
“How come not a single resident has complained directly to us.
“I think it’s a bit rich. The pub had a jazz band playing there one Sunday last autumn.
“We’re not the only people using the toilet, so why point the finger at us?
“There’s loads of people use that toilet on a Saturday and Sunday, it’s always open to the public.
“From what I saw some handles were broken off the cisterns in the toilet – the landlord wanted to charge us £200 for it, which was extortionate.
“It’s the end of an era, but we’re not taking this lying down. We are taking this battle to our local MP Gisela Stuart.
“We were told the club members had poor levels of etiquette but I find that staggering.
“Everyone who plays here just wants to have fun and play bowls, we’re hardly football hooligans.”
One regular, who did not want to be named, added: “We have made this place what it is over the years.
“The bowling attracts custom and what pub doesn’t have a bit of noise outside.
“We are all granddads we’re hardly yobs keeping people up until the early hours. It’s just a bit of fun.”
But defiant pub boss Mr Scriven – who took over in April – claims he has been swamped with complaints from local residents and the council about the groups noisy antics.
He also said the club only generated £2,000-a -year for his business and turning the unusual L-shaped green into a beer garden would bring in more cash.
Mr Scriven said: “We have had a number of noise complaints, many about the level of etiquette from the bowlers on the green.
“We’ve had letters from residents and the council which puts us in a difficult position.
“During the last game of the season the manager asked them to keep the noise down and there was an act of vandalism in the toilet.
“I’ve done some number crunching, the contribution from bowlers – and we’ve given them discount cards – in 12 months was £2,000.
“That’s not a large amount of income to cover such a large space.
“The bowling green design is very unorthodox and they struggle as a team to attract members – only 16 play.
“That has an impact on the amount of revenue the team can generate for the pub.
“Very few people come to support the team, unfortunately.
“It is, basically, a group of individuals who get together sporadically to play bowls.
“We have made requests to have fixture lists so we can publicise the fixtures coming up.
“Unfortunately the impression was given that there was no interest in letting us promote on their behalf.”
Club secretary George Smith, 74, from Harborne, Birmingham, is one of four generations to have played at the club.
He started playing 62 years ago in 1951 following in the footsteps of his late father Lesley who represented the team for 30 years.
George, a retired printer, is also proud that his son Andrew, 41, and grandson Kyle, 15, also compete and have represented the county.
The club play in division two of the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Counties Bowling Association League and last year missed out on promotion by just one point finishing fourth in the table.
George, who has four grandchildren, said:
“The club is my second life. My father played there for 30 years and my son and my grandson also play there still.
“I am devastated that we’ve been kicked out.
“We got a call on January 30 from the licensee who told us we couldn’t play bowls there anymore.
“I thought he was having a strange joke with me at first but then he said we hadn’t brought in enough trade and he was turning the bowling green into a beer garden.
“We’ve basically got until April 13, when the new season begins, to find a new green or the club will die.
“It’s heartbreaking and the members are stunned.”
The club currently has around 35 members aged between 15 and 76 with the average age of the players being between 60 and 70.
Licensee Matt Scriven claimed the bowling club had been threatened with a noise abatement order from Birmingham City Council last August.
He said: “We received a letter from the council saying there had been an allegation of noise nuisance involving shouting and general noise during one of the games.
“The council said they would be investigating and obviously that can lead to more serious sanctions.
“When I took over the pub I thought the bowling club was a quirky addition to the venue and we were happy to keep it on.
“We were anticipating hosting nice genteel games of mature gentlemen all wearing white uniforms but this was not the case.
“There was alcohol served and people can be over exuberant when they’ve had a drink.
“It was decided that, in the best interests of the venue, the club should find an alternative place to stage their games.”
But Birmingham City Council today denied receiving a single complaint about the New Inn Bowling Club.
A spokesman said: “We have received a complaint about the New Inn public house which relates to commercial noise (amplified music).
“A letter was sent from the council to the establishment and discussions were held with the landlord. No notice was served.”
However, licensee Matt Scriven claimed the bowlers had caused problems for people living nearby.
He said: “We received a letter from the council regarding a live music event at the venue and noise generated from people bowling.”