LTA calls for Government Sports Recovery Fund to save community indoor tennis centres from closure
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The LTA has warned that at least a third of Community Indoor Tennis Centres (CITCs) could still face closure, despite the recent Government announcement of a £100m investment in public leisure facilities.
The national governing body for tennis in Great Britain welcomed the new funding pledge announced last week, but has reiterated the urgent need for more comprehensive support through a Sports Recovery Fund to protect jobs and safeguard tennis facilities during the coming months.
Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive, said: “While we welcome the recent Government announcement regarding investment into public leisure, this money will be spread thinly across a huge range of publicly owned sport and leisure facilities. Community Indoor Tennis Centres play a pivotal role in supporting the physical and mental health of people in their local communities, but COVID-19 has left many in a perilous position. The current restrictions across Britain still mean the number of people who can use these centres is significantly less than in normal circumstances and this will continue to have a huge impact on their financial viability as we move into a difficult winter.”
The LTA supports a network of 54 CITCs across England, Scotland and Wales, which deliver a range of tennis activity to local communities across the country including extensive junior programmes, adult social play and activity as part of the LTA’s Open Court disability programme.
The majority are operated by a leisure trust or operator on behalf of a local authority. Despite being allowed to re-open in July and August, most have continued to operate at a loss with operators taking a cautious approach and minimum staff returning from furlough. These losses will continue while restrictions remain in place and as new restrictions are introduced – even accounting for any support received through the Government’s £100m investment.
Additional support for tennis facilities is particularly important in areas where revenue is being further impacted by current local restrictions. In tier 2 and 3 areas of England, adults are unable to play against anyone outside their household bubble on indoor courts, whilst the current firebreak in Wales means all sports and leisure facilities have closed, and current restrictions in Scotland also limit indoor tennis activity. These restrictions severely limit millions of tennis players in terms of who they can play with indoors, despite the socially distanced nature of the sport.
The threat to CITCs follows a summer in which tennis participation soared with the most recent figures showing a 7% like for like increase on the previous year.
Scott Lloyd added: “We remain in discussion with Government around the impact of current restrictions, and have asked for restrictions on indoor sport to be reconsidered which would not only help facilities financially, but also provide more adults with low risk opportunities to take part in physical activity. As it stands, a large proportion of CITCs still face the very real prospect of closure, which would be catastrophic for tennis players up and down the country. We are therefore also calling for Government to deliver a comprehensive Sports Recovery Fund, which is needed to help protect these facilities and other venues with indoor tennis courts which we know are facing huge challenges over the coming months.”
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull and Chair of DCMS Select Committee, recently announced an inquiry into the risks facing community sport as a result of Covid-19. He said: “Visiting my local tennis centre in Solihull with the LTA last Friday brought home to me the immediacy of the issue we face. The centre employs a number of passionate, dedicated employees who deliver a fantastic service in helping to keep the local community active through tennis, a safe and socially distant sport. It is imperative that we protect these vital facilities over the coming months and into 2021, as their closure would result in huge vacuums in many communities across the country and have a significant impact on the nation’s health and wellbeing.”
Toby Perkins MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tennis, said: “I have seen first-hand how damaging the current restrictions are to community tennis venues and clubs, and the significant number of people who use them. It is completely illogical that adults are allowed to take part in a gym class indoors in a group of 30 people, but can’t hit a ball over a net to someone outside of their household or bubble on an indoor court. Indoor tennis venues were already facing very real challenges without these restrictions and they are particularly important over the winter months. I hope the government can support indoor tennis centers to survive the COVID crisis and allow players to keep fit and play tennis during the winter.”
Deborah Briggs, has attended weekly sessions at Corby Tennis Centre in Northamptonshire since 2008. She said: “I work for the NHS as a trauma specialist part-time and look after my mum (86) the rest. Tennis is a really important release for daily stress. Corby Indoor Tennis Centre has been a lifeline for me and indirectly for my patients too. I can't emphasise enough how important CTC is for mental and physical health – it would leave a huge void were it to close.”
Maryann Kuranga, takes her daughters to coaching sessions at Bromley Tennis Centre in Kent. She said: “BTC has been central to the physical and emotional development of both my daughters Brianna and Kayla – it supports their social development and well-being and has taught them discipline, structure and the values of being a team player. I’m not sure what we would do without BTC being open.”
Elizabeth Evans, 13, attends weekly coaching sessions with her brother in Swansea: “Swansea Tennis Centre is like a second home to me and my brother Sam. We have made lots of friends and the coaches are like our second parents. Coronavirus has been a nightmare for us, and without tennis I wasn’t as happy as I’d normally be.”