Earlier this week, the Government and LTA announced a £30 million package to refurbish more than 4,500 public tennis courts in the most deprived parts of the UK, and support a new generation of players to get into the sport.
This programme will be transformational for public tennis facilities in Britain. Alongside the money that the LTA is putting in this additional Government investment will allow us to repair and refurbish dilapidated park courts across the country. We are also committed to ensuring that any investment is supported by sustainable community tennis programmes, so courts see a real growth in usage and local authorities can continue to invest in their courts over the long term. Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive
The package is designed to capitalise on the unprecedented success of Emma Raducanu, Joe Salisbury, Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett at this year’s US Open Tennis Championships by boosting British tennis.
The Government is committing £21.9 million while £8.4 million is provided by the LTA to revive over 4,500 courts, including those in a poor or unplayable condition at more than 1,500 venues.
The aim is to open up the sport to people of all backgrounds, support the Government’s commitment to levelling up sports provision across the nation, and provide greater opportunities for everyone to follow the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance on physical activity.
The guidance makes clear that children should aim to carry out 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and adults 2.5 hours a week.
18-year old Emma Raducanu from Bromley, who became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977, and the first qualifier to win a major tournament, is driving increased interest in British tennis.
The US Open final was watched by a peak audience of 9.2 million viewers on Channel 4 as well as being shown on rights holder Amazon Prime.
Gordon Reid & Alfie Hewett also became the first all-British pairing to complete the Grand Slam by winning the men’s wheelchair doubles final, and Joe Salisbury delivered ‘double doubles’ wins in both the men’s and mixed events.
The government also announced nearly £30 million a year to go towards improving and opening up school sport facilities in England, as well as to improve the teaching of Physical Education at primary schools.
This will build on the 10.1 million which has supported schools to reopen their sports facilities after the Covid pandemic and increase opportunities for children and young people all over England to take part in sport.
It builds on the £320 million PE and Sport Premium, announced for the academic year 2021-22, which helps children become active early on in their lives, supporting primary schools to improve the quality of their PE and sport provision so that pupils experience the benefits of regular exercise.
It underlines the importance of PE and sport as set out in the Government’s manifesto, backed by the ambitious School Sport and Activity Action plan which will be updated in due course.
Park tennis court facilities are owned by local authorities and are vital community assets that can help widen the impact of the physical and mental health benefits that being active through tennis can bring.
Sustaining and increasing participation in tennis on park courts is also key to the long-term health of the sport itself and the LTA’s vision of opening tennis up to more people.
The LTA believes tennis should be relevant, accessible, welcoming, and enjoyable to anyone, and park facilities are one of the most important ways to deliver this.
“This programme will be transformational for public tennis facilities in Britain,” declared LTA Chief Executive, Scott Lloyd.
“Alongside the money that the LTA is putting in this additional Government investment will allow us to repair and refurbish dilapidated park courts across the country.
“We are also committed to ensuring that any investment is supported by sustainable community tennis programmes, so courts see a real growth in usage and local authorities can continue to invest in their courts over the long term.
“Above and beyond the £8.5m grant funding for park courts, the LTA continues to invest in tennis programmes and facilities across the country, providing individual loan funding for many venues across the country.
“The LTA also remains committed to working with national and local government to support and significantly grow the network of public indoor tennis venues across Britain to compliment the 54 community indoor tennis centres currently operating.”
There are currently 1.7 million adults and many more children who play tennis in a local park every year, and park tennis courts are particularly important in providing affordable, engaging and accessible opportunities for more female players and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as being the most popular venue for women to play after they have left education.
Whilst the popularity of the sport is flourishing, with yearly tennis participation growing 8% last year despite the long periods of lockdown, there are many areas of the country where park courts remain dilapidated and unappealing.
Currently across England, Wales and Scotland around 45% of park courts are categorised as being in poor, very poor or unplayable condition, preventing many from picking up a racket and getting active.
Critically, half of unplayable venues are in the most socially deprived areas of the country.
As well as paying for the refurbishment of public park courts, the new investment will also pay for the implementation of sustainable operating models for the facilities, with specialist programmes and support to ensure courts are both affordable and utilised.
Following refurbishment, the LTA will work with local authorities across Britain to help support them with a variety of operating models to help increase participation, including making it easier for people to find and book a court through the LTA’s online booking platform, LTA Rally, combined with digital gate access technology so people can turn up knowing a court is available for them to use, as well as community coaching programmes.
This also provides opportunities to generate sinking funds so local authorities can continue to invest in facilities over the long term and ensure they are available for future generations.
The LTA’s £8.5m grant funding comes via the LTA Trust, the LTA’s charity for investment in tennis infrastructure, of whom the LTA is the sole funder.
The acquisition of Local Tennis Leagues and the partnership with Tennis for Free enables the LTA to include them as part of a range of products and programmed activity to be run at park sites.
These include LTA Youth, the LTA’s innovative and industry leading new junior programme, and LTA Big Tennis Weekends to help tennis venues attract the local community to come and try the sport at fun and welcoming open days.
Different parks or clusters of parks need different operating models to be successful, and so the LTA have developed a flexible set of best practice models based on experiences of a range of successful and sustainable park sites across Britain.
Whether a local authority owns and operates a park venue or cluster of venues themselves, through a leisure trust or not-for-profit partner, or courts are operated by local community groups, an applicable operating model has been developed. Through its regional team, the LTA is also able to support with the recruitment, training and retention of the right tennis workforce.