Understanding the Integrity Policy

by Aaron Delaporte

Questions around selection of teams and players leading up to finals is something that Bowls WA Staff field regular queries on especially later in the season.

In this article we will attempt to explain further the Integrity of Graded Pennants Policy (commonly known as the Integrity Rule or Policy), why and how it applies, breaches and penalties plus tackle some of the more trickier situations that can arise at club level.

The Integrity Policy was first introduced to Pennants in the season of 2004/05 having been approved by the Bowls Management Committee and ratified by the Board, and despite some changes within the wording it has been applied very consistently ever since. However, it still sits highly amongst the most misunderstood rules within Bowls in Western Australia.

It is important to note that the requirement to submit team sheets after Round 14 no longer exists.

In its most basic form the Policy ensures clubs select teams and players to their ability and removes the possibility of manipulation of results by moving players down in grades below their capabilities. As the title implies it exists to ensure integrity is maintained in pennant competition. It ensures honesty and maintains a strong moral standard within bowls.

The Integrity Policy was most recently updated to include a clause which allows players to participate in a lower graded competition if there regular higher graded team plays as a rescheduled time which under legitimate circumstances would prevent them from playing.

The Integrity Policy applies both to Metropolitan Pennants and Country Pennants. The Bowls WA Fixtures & Events Committee is responsible for ensuring its application in metropolitan pennants whilst the respective Country League Match Committees handle their own pennants.

Within reason any player, club or official may report to the relevant committee if they believe an infringement has occurred. At this point the committee shall investigate and if in their opinion a breach has occurred the club shall be issued a “please explain” notice within reasonable time to respond. It is important to note that the policy states clubs should be prepared to defend their selectors’ decisions. This means the onus is on the club to provide proof that they have not transgressed the policy. Once the response has been received the committee would make a determination and advise the club involved. The club would then have the option of 48 hours to appeal the decision which would be heard by the Bowls WA Management Committee (this may be earlier if it is the last fixture for the competition).

Penalties for breaches include loss of points for the games in which the breaches occurred and/or fines.

It is important to note that the policy applies equally for every round of the pennant season.

Frequent questions relating to the Integrity policy

In what circumstances are players allowed to move down a grade without breaching the policy?

  • Poor form
  • Disciplinary action by the club
  • Selection rules applied by the club i.e. player misses a game they play down a grade the following week
  • To return to their regular grade having filled in for an absent player
  • Medical issues i.e. recovering from injury

In what circumstances are players allowed to move up a grade without breaching the policy?

  • Improved form
  • To replace an absent player

In what circumstances will players moving grades breach the policy?

  • Where it is apparent there is an attempt to strengthen a lower grade to manipulate results without a satisfactory explanation

What do the relevant committees look at when investigating a breach?

  • The position of the teams in questions i.e. are they looking to qualify in finals and/or avoid relegation
  • An improved performance by the lower graded team or decreased performance of a higher graded team
  • The record of the players involved and where they have regularly played and their recent playing history
  • The explanation provided by the club and whether it can reasonably defend the decision i.e. a decision consistent with the club’s selection policy or a relevant club rule

Some more trickier examples and how the Integrity Policy would apply

Example 1

Club ABC is situated south of the river and its first division team is running 7th but with no chance of being demoted. They are scheduled to play away north of the river against the team running 2nd who have already beaten them quite easily at home earlier in the season. Three of the teams better players are close friends and have been invited to a party that evening. They are concerned they will be late to the party so go to the selectors to see if they can play at home instead giving them a better chance to get to the party on time. The selectors notice that the clubs second division side (playing at home) is sitting fifth and playing the fourth placed team where a win would give them a great chance of playing finals with just a few games to go. They decide to drop the three players and promote a couple of relatively new but promising bowlers to give them a taste of first division. The newer bowlers are wrapped to be getting a game in the higher grade, so the clubs selectors see it as a positive situation for the players involved and the club.

However, the question is has the integrity policy been breached?

The answer is YES. The teams were not selected based on playing ability and the situation of the players wanting to play at home is not a reasonable one regarding the integrity of the competition.

Example 2

Club JKI has two very good skips who have consistently won club championships and recognised as amongst their better bowlers. Player A injures his knee and requires a reconstruction and misses rounds 4-12 of the pennant season. He returns to bowls using a walking stick to assist his balance and although he has rolled up reasonably well in short bursts is unsure how well he will go in a full game. The club is short of players and needs him to be available. It is round 13 and the selectors decide to play him in the second side and as a second, so he can take periods of the game resting on the sidelines. Player B although very good can sometimes get a bit of white line fever, in his round 12 match he verbally abused his team mates and an opposition player. The opposition team manager reports him to the club for his behaviour. The club writes an apology letter and acts under its rules. He is very apologetic for his actions so the club executive recommend a week non-selection or he be moved down a grade as punishment. Both penalties are clearly written in the clubs By-laws. The club selectors are very short for players and decide to play him in the second side in his usual position as skip, he is replaced in top grade with the best skip in the second side. As it turns out both Players A and B play exceptionally well in the second side and contribute to a big win against a higher ranked team. The opposition team is naturally aggrieved that two very good players had performed so well against them in a lower grade and contact Bowls WA to investigate.

So, the question is has Club XYZ breached the Integrity Policy?

In first investigation it appears there may be a breach as the club has played two very good players in a lower grade and when its apparent they have contributed to an upset result it raises more suspicions. Naturally the club receives a ‘please explain’ letter. Club XYZ explain the separate situations of Player A and B, include medical proof of Players A knee operation and provide minutes of the club’s decision to drop Player B. They also note that the club’s best player in the second side was promoted to replace Player B and therefore picked the best possible team based on merit under the circumstances.

Bowls WA accepts the explanation as reasonable and takes no further action as NO breach has occurred. In summary, Player A is returning from injury after a lengthy absence which is common in sport for players to do so in a lower grade. Player B has been handed a disciplinary outcome and been replaced with the best available player.

Example 3

Club XYZ have teams in division 1,2,3,4. A player in the highest grade is unavailable for a Round 17 fixture but will be back the following week. The clubs teams in divisions 2 and 3 are in the mix for finals. The selectors make the decision to not reshuffle grades 2 and 3 and keep them as they were to give them every opportunity to qualify for finals. They play a division 4 player in the highest grade despite the fact he will obviously be out of his depth. As it turns out division 1 lose their match by one shot and the team they played moves from 5th to 4th on the ladder. The team who was 4th, having lost their match are now 5th, notice in the results that an unknown player has filled in and on further investigation they find out he is a regular division 4 player. They feel this has obviously affected the result and question the selection under the integrity Policy. Has a breach of the Integrity Policy occurred?

The answer is NO. In this case it’s important to note two things. The first is that despite the fact that a better player could have been found for division 1 there was no attempt to strengthen a lower division. Secondly the result of the game and ultimately the ladder swap is a lot more arbitrary an outcome. Had the team sitting 4th won their game then its highly doubtful the selection would have even been looked at. A club also has a right not to disrupt its teams significantly when a player is absent for a week. In any case should a breach have occurred the team raising the issue would not have had their ladder position changed as the applying penalties are loss of points or a fine to the team who has breached.

So how can clubs avoid possible breaches of the Integrity Rule?

  1. Have clear guidelines for club selectors about the policy for selecting teams
  2. Have clear rules and penalties for club discipline
  3. Document any selection decisions that may require explanation
  4. Contact Bowls WA if unsure on any circumstances regarding player selection