A FUNDRAISING appeal has been launched by three female lawn bowlers planning to take legal action in a sexism row.

Late last year three female members at Essex County Bowls Club, Imperial Avenue, Westcliff claimed they were asked to pay more with less chance of playing based purely on gender.

Fees were raised at the club, bringing men and women’s rates to the same level.

The club stated that it has two-and-a-half times as many male members as female, so men require more “rink space”, but women can bowl in 52 out of 54 sessions each week.

But now, three of the female members, who claimed they were suspended due to their complaints, are preparing to take legal action - under the Equality Act 2010.

The women, Jan Collins, Brenda Bowyer and Jan Soar, have now set up a GoFund Me page appealing for money to fund the legal battle.

An extract from the fundraising page read: “In January we were disciplined by the club, the club won this action and our ‘punishment’ was that our suspension will last until September 30, 2019.

“We appealed against this decision to the 2 ladies County authorities that we, as women bowlers, are affiliated to and won our appeal.

“However, our appeal was overruled, because although being a women’s issue and appealing to the women’s county authorities which govern our sport it appears that we should have appealed to the men’s county governing authority - although we were not informed of this.

“We are now beginning the process of litigation against the bowls club under the Equality Act 2010 citing that the club is discriminating against women by not giving them equal opportunity to bowl at the times they are able to.”

A club spokesman said: “Going back to Summer 2018, the 3 ladies first voiced their discontent and as a result a meeting was arranged at the Club to discuss rink space allocation, particularly for ladies. Following input from the 50 or so lady members present, a sub-committee was set up to review all matters relating to rink allocation. Changes were implemented for the following season, including a new ladies league and a new mixed evening league. 

"However these steps failed to appease the 3 lady members. Amongst other things they accessed the Club’s membership database to circularise an e-mail to most members. The e-mail contained significant inaccuracies and focused on reductions in ladies competitive bowls, however it failed to mention equally significant reduction in the corresponding men’s competition. At the same time e-mails from the three ladies were sent to the Policy Board making accusations of prejudice, using terms such as dictators and misogynistic - particularly insulting to the ladies on the Policy Board. 

"The 3 ladies have since been suspended from the Club in accordance to the rules and regulations of our sport’s National Governing Body – Bowls England.

"Following this the 3 ladies have given us notice that they intend to take the Club to court. The basis of their court action is that the club are in contravention of the Equalities Act. In their demands they request financial compensation from the Club.

"As a Club we have no option but to contest this and legal advice has already been sought on the matter.

"The Club has acted fairly throughout this whole process and our other 200 or so lady members are very pleased with the outcome from the above mentioned meeting.

"The 3 ladies have all voluntarily now joined other bowling clubs and therefore have not been denied the opportunity to participate in the sport. The Club has also allowed them access for playing matches and watching friends and family play."

Visit www.gofundme.com/f/equality-in-bowls to donate.