Scrabble clubs closing as game thrives online

THE figures spell the end for diehard fans of one of the world's most popular board games. Scotland's Scrabble clubs are in rapid decline, with several closing their doors.

Clubs in Perth, Crieff and Dundee have all closed recently, while the Aberdeen Scrabble club now has only three members. The falling numbers have been attributed to a lack of young people joining the game, despite more than half of all British homes owning a Scrabble board.

Alan Sinclair of Edinburgh Scrabble club, which has 12 members, the youngest of whom is 30 and at its peak had more than 30 active players, said: "Numbers have halved in the past 20 years. People have died or they've become too old to play and there aren't enough young people coming in."

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Jean Gallacher of the Inverness Scrabble Club said that numbers were now down to just eight. "We used to have a very busy club but time takes its toll, people move away, people die and you're left with the diehards trying to keep it going," she said.

Despite the decline, however, the game has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity on the internet, where it is played on social networking sites such as Facebook.

"On the internet it's a completely different story," said Sinclair. "But the problem is that the popularity of the game on the internet doesn't seem to translate into people wanting to come along and join clubs and play in tournaments."

Ross Mackenzie, a member of the Glasgow Scrabble Club and chairman of the Association of British Scrabble Players, said: "The Facebook generation plays Scrabble on their lunch break but they don't join clubs. The inevitability is that while there will always be Scrabble clubs, in the future there will be fewer of them and they'll be more centralised."

Mackenzie added that Scrabble was now rarely played in schools, which had also contributed to its decline in popularity among young people.

"There used to be schools competitions and that's how a lot of people, including myself, came into the game. You would play at local level and then progress to a national final. But that doesn't happen any more."

Philip Nelkon of Mattel, which makes Scrabble, said: "Sales of Scrabble are still holding up extremely well, but in terms of people playing the game it's so much easier now to play on Facebook or on the iPhone. There are a million people worldwide playing on Facebook and a similar number playing on iPhone or iPad."