Sheffield Friendship tenpin bowling league longest established in UK

The Friendship Tenpin Bowling League - May 2015 - see the 1967 picture in Grass Roots.
The Friendship Tenpin Bowling League - May 2015 - see the 1967 picture in Grass Roots.

Sheffield boasts the longest running tenpin bowling league in the country - and possibly Europe.

The current 2014-15 season is the 46th year of the Friendship League at the MFA Firth Park Bowling Centre.

Research on the Continent can find no longer established leagues in Europe.

The league started in to 1967 - four years after the Firth Park Tenpin Centre opened, when friendly games were organised through Methodist Churches.

At first, the league was met with some criticism from churchgoers due to certain team names, such as The Sermon Sleepers or The Holy Terrors.

The first season began in September 1967, with the competiton named the Church Tenpin League.

From the start the league only played two games each match, not the usual three as the club wanted to make bowling as affordable as possible so they could attract a wider target audience.

President Mike Hibbert believes modest pricing is one of the primary reasons the league has survived for so long.

“Today we have teams with several family members in and one has three generations,” Hibbert said.

“The game price in 1968 was 3s 6d, about 35p today!

“When the recession came in the late 1970s many centres closed. But Firth Park Bowl remained open because of the strong number of leagues bowling there.”

Brian Gill is the only one of the original 1967/68 members who still bowls weekly, and Hibbert says the changes the Firth Park centre has seen are enormous.

“When the centre first opened it was accessible 22 hours a day, closed only for cleaning. If you were still bowling at 5am you got a free full English breakfast. Anything went in those days!”

Mr Hibbert’s team, The Corinthians - league champions for the previous two seasons - were pipped to the post in an exciting finish in the last game of this season.

Member Jaitinda Sing, of Singhs Stores on Wheta Road, has bought new league shirts to celebrate the 46-year record.

New players are welcome and more details are available from the Firth Park Centre, North Quadrant.