European Tour Escalates Dispute With PBA

In a terse statement posted Tuesday, the European Tenpin Bowling Federation (ETBF) told the PBA its involvement in the European Bowling Tour (EBT) is not welcome starting in 2020.

The major sticking point between the organizations involves handicap being award to women in EBT events. The ETBF mandates that tournaments on the European tour give eight pins handicap per game to women, while World Bowling and the PBA have said they want that eliminated.

The statement from ETBF Vice President Kim Thorsgaard Jensen said the ETBF has “with a growing concern witnessed a negative influence from PBA on certain stops in the European Bowling Tour.”

Another point of contention for the ETBF was that the PBA scheduled the 2019 World Series of Bowling in March, a time of year when one of Europe’s biggest events, the Brunswick Euro Challenge, is traditionally conducted.

“The ETBF Presidium has therefore; based on these incidents, decided that PBA and ETBF cannot operate in the same tour,” Jensen wrote in the statement. “As a consequence, an EBT Tournaments cannot, as of 2020, be included in any series organized by PBA or award a PBA title to their winner.”

PBA Commissioner Tom Clark told FloBowling the PBA is “unapologetic” about these issues.

“We hope for nothing but success for all European tournaments, run exactly how the organizers would like to conduct them,” Clark said. “We haven’t told anyone how to run their events. It’s just we will no longer be putting any event that uses handicap pins on the PBA Tour schedule or attach PBA titles to those events.”

One key sticking point appears to be the ETBF mandate that women receive handicap. Tournament organizers do not have a choice as to whether they will award handicap or not. In order to be a part of the EBT, they must award handicap to female competitors.

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As for the scheduling conflict with the Euro Challenge, Clark said it’s an unfortunate reality of the PBA’s new television contract with FOX Sports.

“We met with organizers during Bowl Expo and once again explained our new FOX TV deal calls for a March WSOB,” Clark said. “We respect the Euro Challenge as a great event, understand the scheduling conflict for 2019 is unfortunate for some players, but hope in the future players can compete in both and that the Euro be recognized on the PBA Tour.”

In an interview with FloBowling on Wednesday, World Bowling CEO Kevin Dornberger said the World Bowling Tour will continue to award PBA titles at its events, and he is frustrated by the lack of cooperation between organizations in the sport.

“I continue to be disappointed that we cannot bring all the major tours in the world under one umbrella and generate goodwill and good news from all the major events,” Dornberger said. “It’s beyond frustrating. We’re not a sport in position of strength. We’re not soccer. We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Dornberger said World Bowling will move forward without EBT events for the World Bowling Tour and said one event, the Storm Lucky Larsen Masters conducted in Sweden, will drop off the EBT in 2019 and remain a WBT event with no handicap for women.

“World Bowling will attempt to secure events outside of the European Bowling Tour in Europe to be a part of the World Bowling Tour,” Dornberger said. “We will continue to improve our product so it becomes more attractive to the promoters around the world.”

After reaching a peak of 20 tournaments in 2011 and offering more than one million Euro in prize money, the EBT has been in a state of decline in recent years. In 2017, the number of tournaments was just 11 and prize money was half of what it was in 2011.

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