By Andrew Atkinson
PRESTON Guild Hall, that staged the World Indoor Bowls Championship, beginning in the eighties, has run into financial difficulties, in the wake of Preston Council off-loading the costly venue – for a paltry £1.
Entrepreneur John Rigby, who bought the legendary Guild Hall, under the John Rigby Guild Group Ltd., was put into administration in June 2019.
World Bowls Championship tournaments were formerly staged at the Lancashire venue, at the 2,000 seater arena.
Along with bowls, the Guild Hall staged the Coral UK Snooker Championship for two decades, graced by legends, including Alex Higgins, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Bowls’ famous names, including David Bryant, Willie Wood, Ian Schuback, David Gourlay, Hugh Duff and Kelvin Kirkkow, played at the Guild Hall.
During the World Indoor Championships at Preston Guild Hall in 1992 the world’s top players inaugurated the World Bowls Players Association.
Founder members included David Bryant, Tony Allcock, Peter Bellis, Ian Schuback, Richard Corsie, Rob Parrella, John Price, Willie Wood and Andy Thomson.
The WPBA was later known as the Professional Bowls Association (PBA). In 1997 the PBA’s proposals for opening up the Professional Sport and it’s ideas for development were accepted by the sport’s governing bodies, with the World Bowls Tour formed.
Preston Guild Hall was the venue for the first WBT International Open tournament, being the first ever PBA Qualifier.
The Professional Bowls Association, together with it’s partner the World Indoor Bowls Council, developed the game, thereafter.
Preston Council sold the Guild Hall after losses of £1m per annum were recorded.
Boxing was another sport to grace the venue, with sell out crowds swarming to Preston.
The 1989 Embassy World Indoor Bowls Championship was held at Preston Guild Hall, switching from Alexandra Palace.
Richard Corsie won the 1989 Singles title, beating Willie Wood. David Bryant and Tony Allcock won their third Pairs World title in 1989.
In 1996 David Gourlay beat Hugh Duff in the Singles final, with Ian Schuback and Kelvin Kirkkow winning the Pairs’ final.
After years of World Championship Bowls success, the Guild Hall has fallen from grace, into the doldrums.