First Lady of bowls is exposed as £13,600 disability benefits cheat

Tracey Powell

Sporting prowess: Tracey Powell in action

While it undoubtedly requires nerve, poise and accuracy, bowls could hardly be considered the most physically demanding of sports.

Perhaps that was why England Ladies’ captain Tracey Powell thought she could claim disability benefits as she competed in tournaments at the highest level.

The mother of three was left immobile by a knee injury. But when her condition improved, she failed to notify the authorities and continued claiming a total of £13,600 over a seven-year period up to May 2007.

During that time, Powell, 47, and her sister Lynda Smith scooped the pairs title at the national women’s championships in 2002, and Powell made her England debut against Scotland in 2006, the same year she won the Herefordshire women’s singles title.

Powell, from Leominster, Herefordshire, admitted failing to report a change of circumstances in February last year and was given a 24-month conditional discharge by Hereford magistrates.

During the hearing, which went unreported at the time, she was ordered to pay back the cash she had falsely claimed, at a rate of £200 a month, and was told to pay prosecution costs of £150.

It is understood the Department of Work and Pensions brought the prosecution after being tipped off that Powell’s capabilities had improved since she damaged her knee.

The bowler, pictured competing in a tournament for her local club this week, where she wore her England blazer, has refused to comment on the case. Her husband, John, 71, who runs his own taxi business, said only that the matter was ‘all sorted out years ago’. Her team-mates at Leominster expressed shock at their star player’s dodgy past.

One said: ‘There is no way someone with a genuine disability could play bowls to her standard. It’s all about bending and stretching, and Tracey is a great sportswoman.’

Another said: ‘I’ve been playing with Tracey for years and never had her pegged as a benefits cheat.

‘It’s a huge shock and I think she should do the honourable thing and resign the England captaincy.’

Gerald Pitt, secretary of Leominster Bowling Club, said the matter had ‘caused a great deal of embarrassment to the club’, but refused to comment further.

Powell, who works as a school caretaker, once had trials for the England ladies’ football team. After she was made captain of the national team in May, she said: ‘Bowls is slower but I throw myself into it.

‘It’s an honour to be England’s captain and an honour to wear the blazer.’

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