University partnerships, pay & play offers and breaking down barriers – how a small Manchester tennis club has become a pillar of the local community
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Tucked away in the suburbs of Manchester, Fallowfield Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club are a small club, dating back to 1868, making a big impact in their local community.
Boasting three floodlit artificial grass courts, the club has grown to over 180 members, with more players coming to the courts to enjoy a hit with friends and family under their Pay & Play facility. By providing accessible and affordable options for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to pick up a racket and play tennis, Fallowfield is at the front on breaking down some of the perceived barriers to our sport.
“I think tennis is still regarded among a lot of people, as a posh person’s sport, but it’s nothing like other sports like football,” said David Neesham, Welfare Officer at Fallowfield. “That’s something you have to fight against here in terms of people in the local area.
“We try to be as welcoming as we can be – you don’t need to be a member to play, we’re in a really nice setting and even if you don’t want to play, you can still come and enjoy the social side.
“Because of that we get a lot of people who travel from the centre of the city and even further out and we have lots of members who have been with us for many years.”
One of the secrets to Fallowfield continued growth and development over the years has been their commitment to a clear plan and purpose that stays true to their local community.
“Our prime objective is to remain an independent sports club that is sustainable in terms of membership and our finances,” David said.
“Our site currently houses tennis, snooker, bowling and darts and we want to make sure that local people can still afford to come and play, even if they aren’t a member.
“We also offer pay and play, which has worked really well for us. We only charge £5 for an hour, off peak and £8 peak (daily post 18.00) on the tennis court and the LTA online booking system has been a fantastic benefit as our site isn’t managed on a daily basis – without it, we couldn’t offer Pay & Play.
“In terms of income, pay and play brings in around £8000 a year, which is great income for us and give local people the opportunity to play.
“We also have a car park we rent to a local school, we share our function room with the Manchester Bridge Club and we have a bar that gets some social use, so we’re doing what we can to keep the club financially sustainable.”
In the past six years, one of the biggest turning points for the club has been the partnership they have struck with Manchester University.
“In recent years we’ve had an agreement with the University to let them use the courts,” David explained. “They have two tennis sections, one for team players and one for more social tennis and coaching, the latter become members of the Club and gain access to the courts for formal sessions as well as personal access at other times.
“This year we’ve had around 130 student members, which is quite a significant boost to our membership and it’s great to have more people involved at the club. It gives us an addition to our base income, which when you’re in an area like ours where you can’t really raise fees, is vitally important.
“We also work alongside Manchester Active, which has been really positive. They have been great at promoting the club and we’ve had quite a few people come to us through them as well.”
With such a diverse range of income streams and more people discovering what the club has to offer through its partnerships, it’s fair to say, the future looks bright for Fallowfield, As they continue on their journey to grow, bring new people into the sport and act as a pillar within the community, their ability to understand and adapt people in the local area will put them in great stead for many exciting years ahead.
Fallowfield Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club
Learn more about Fallowfield Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club and the work they are doing to continue to grow the club and attract new members.