Update From Blane Dodds

26/05/2021

| Tennis Scotland

Blane Dodds

UPDATE FROM TENNIS SCOTLAND CHIEF EXECUTIVE BLANE DODDS

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease across most parts of the country, it is important to update you on the work currently under way to ensure tennis continues to thrive.

Firstly, I would like to reiterate my thanks to clubs, coaches, staff, Board members and volunteers throughout Scotland for making sure exercise through tennis remained a vital and important part of people’s everyday lives throughout lockdown. I would also like to thank our team at Tennis Scotland for their diligence in ensuring our network of clubs and players could adapt to the ever-changing restrictions and tier levels published by Scottish Government at policy level and the updated guidance from sportscotland supported by the LTA.

Throughout the lockdown, we attempted to maximise where possible the support we could give our clubs, coaches and the wider tennis community. The LTA very helpfully made available a £20m support fund and whilst this was for the whole of GB, Scotland accessed this support on top of other support such as the Small Business Grant Scheme. Overall whilst still challenging for all, significant funding was realised to support the tennis community through the lockdown period.

Increase In Club Membership

As one of the first sports to open up after lockdown, we are pleased to report a 10% increase in club membership to almost 63,000 club members, and a participation increase of 6%, with an estimated 250,000 adults now playing tennis recreationally. Indeed 5125 new members joined tennis clubs throughout Scotland in 2020 which is testament to the important role our clubs have in our communities and the great job they do. This is why clubs are and will be one of our key priorities moving forward.

To accelerate this momentum, I am pleased to say that we have appointed a range of new appointments to facilitate the growth experienced over recent years and help to ensure further growth and capacity building is delivered. Tennis Scotland is a small organisation with big ambitions. These ambitions in the form of strategic objectives requires investment and we are delighted that we have been able to secure significant new investment over recent times to make the progress we are all striving for. New roles recruited recently to add to the infrastructure required include posts for coaching, performance, participation and facility development.

Whilst COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted on the rate of progress we would have anticipated as part of our strategic plan, nevertheless I am encouraged by the gathering momentum on our other key pillars of building stronger venues at the heart of our community, building a world-class player development pathway, developing all year-round tennis opportunities via indoor facilities and delivering first-class events and competitions.

Support From The LTA

With the support of the LTA and sportscotland, we announced significant investment in facilities through the Transforming Scottish Indoor Tennis fund, which will help develop more all-year-round play the breadth of the country.

This process, not unexpectedly, has been the most-affected by COVID-19 but I am pleased to report that the development of a four-court facility at Moray Sports Centre in Elgin will be the first of our projects to benefit from the £15m fund which has been allocated, with work due to begin later this year.

It is anticipated that we will have three such facilities in progress by the end of the year.

We have also been aware of the planned closures of some public sporting amenities by Glasgow Life and the potential impact this will have on some of the tennis courts across the city.

Understand The Challenges

Whilst we understand the challenges facing operators of sports facilities, particularly the financial impact of the pandemic, we are seeking solutions for these facilities to ensure delivery of our strategic objective to open tennis up and make it accessible to all. To that end, I can reveal we are in positive dialogue with Glasgow Life with a view to reclaiming these public facilities to prevent their closure and re-energise tennis play on public courts.

We have the ability to support the viability of these courts via our affiliated clubs and partners making them an integral part of our facilities strategy. We are confident the discussions will enable us to protect and develop these courts for future generations of players.

I have also been heartened to see the return of club league and cup competitions as well as all graded competitions in Scotland. In addition, four age groups of County Cup were delivered recently, and the hosting of the first ITF event of the year in Great Britain at Stirling University, the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors. We look forward to hosting more competitions as the year develops.

New Intake Of Players

On the performance side, we will shortly welcome a new intake of players to the GB National Tennis Academy based at The University of Stirling. This Academy is a British programme and is one of two LTA funded and supported academies for the best young players in Great Britain. The wide partnership support includes the sportscotland Institute of Sport science and medicine team to supplement our world-class Head Coach Leo Azevedo and his team of coaches.

Working with the LTA and sportscotland, we have also strengthened our national player pathway with the objective of creating a pipeline of future talent via new coaches and key staff across the player pathway. Additionally the creation of a new vlog series, Between the Lines, gives an insight into the daily lives of those players who aspire to reach the top, chronicling their lives on the road and bringing their personalities to a younger audience.

I hope this outlines the progress made so far in safeguarding tennis in Scotland this past year, and outlines the commitment of Tennis Scotland to making up for lost time as we emerge from the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic.

Blane Dodds
Tennis Scotland CEO

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