Rackets

Introduction to Court Development

INTRODUCTION

The current stock of Rackets courts in the UK is 28, distributed as follows:

  • 22 at 14 independent schools – Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Malvern, Marlborough, Rugby, Tonbridge and Winchester have two courts
  • 4 at 3 members’ clubs – Queen’s has two courts
  • 2 at armed forces’ establishments – Dartmouth and Sandhurst

PARTICIPATION

As can be seen, the game is very independent school centric, with participation very much down to the enthusiasm and quality of the school professional. Few of the professionals are dedicated solely to the game, with Rackets being seen as a winter sport, so that the professional will have other responsibilities throughout the school year.

There are plenty of matches at and between schools. Current entries for national schools’ singles and doubles tournaments at Queen’s are at a good level, with growth coming from the girls’ game.

It is reckoned that about 80% of students stop playing when they leave school due to there being no courts at universities and otherwise a lack of conveniently located courts other than Queen’s which, in spite of some incentives, remains extremely expensive to join.

After-school participation is largely based at Queen’s and Manchester, together with various ad hoc old boy evening clubs based on schools with courts

RECENT NEW COURTS

In the past 20 years, there have been two new courts developed and one major re-development of the doubles court at Harrow.

The new court at St Paul’s School was opened in 2001 and cost approximately £1m which was entirely paid for by an anonymous old boy donor.

The second court at Tonbridge School, built in the redundant gym between the existing Rackets court and the school chapel, was opened in 2012 and cost around £825k; this was funded to the extent of about 42.5% from the Judd Foundation (part of the Skinners’ Company which governs the school) and the school itself; the balance came from the T&RA and around 200 old boys and other Rackets enthusiasts.

Harrow – details awaited

FINANCE

Capital

  • Cost - the capital cost of a new standalone court is likely to be at least £1.75m based on the current cost of the St Paul’s court
  • Funding - the T&RA would contribute 10% of the capital cost, with the balance to be provided by individual donations. Debt financing is unlikely to be available since there will almost certainly be no reliable income stream from which to repay any loan

Operation

  • Cost – at a school or university, a full or part time professional would need to be engaged; other operating costs would be balls, lighting and general maintenance
  • Income – with court occupancy averaging at not much more than 10% on a 07.00 to 22.00 year-round basis, court fees at current levels are unlikely to cover the cost of the professional – this is certainly the case at Queen’s

PROSPECTIVE NEW COURTS

The prospects for any new courts are not bright since the required investment will require substantial donations from wealthy individuals or institutions who are not concerned about return.

Having said that, the obvious places for new courts would be at independent schools or universities, with a strategic preference from the T&RA for the latter so that more students can continue to play after school.

Cambridge University had a court which was demolished some 40 years ago. In recent dialogue with the CU Director of Sport, he expressed the view that a new Rackets court is not a high priority whilst others connected with the university have said that, if the money could be raised, a site could probably be found.

We are not aware of any conversations or expressions of interest from other universities or any schools.

FINALLY

The T&RA stands ready to support any proposal for a new Rackets court, with specialists available to advise on design and construction, planning applications, fundraising, etc.

Enquiries in the first instance should be directed to the Director of Court Development, Richard Dalzell, at richard.a.dalzell@gmail.com.

Richard Dalzell, February 2021