Harrogate
Tennis

Blueprint for Tennis Court Development

Brief

A key objective of the T&RA is to increase Real Tennis participation, acknowledging that most of the 27 existing courts in the UK were (pre Covid) seeing high levels of utilisation, with a number at or near capacity.

In these circumstances, the key to increasing participation is to develop new courts. To this end, the T&RA has appointed a Director of Court Development with a brief to encourage the development of new Tennis courts. The focus will be particularly on schools, where, as with all the existing courts at schools, students will be offered the opportunity to play the game whilst an external club open to all operates in parallel.

The role involves seeking out suitable locations for new Tennis courts and, where realistic potential has been identified, providing advice and support from the T&RA in terms of design and construction, planning and finance, as well as helping in the production of presentations and/or applications to the relevant authorities as and when required.

Cheltenham Ladies' College
Cheltenham Ladies' College

Strategy

Of the current Tennis courts in the UK, 26 are concentrated in 15 counties of England and one is in Scotland.

The current strategy, endorsed by the T&RA Board, is to improve the coverage throughout the UK and to fill in the gaps. To this end, analyses have been produced for each of the 48 counties of England as well as the major cities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These analyses cover the overall population, the biggest towns and cities as well as the major schools, sports clubs and universities; in addition, current and former Tennis courts have been included.

Prioritisation

Armed with this information, the Chairman of the Tennis Committee (Chris Vigrass) and the T&RA Chief Executive (Chris Davies) met with the Director of Court Development (Richard Dalzell) to discuss and agree which counties should be the priorities.

It was agreed to focus on well-populated and reasonably affluent parts of the country which are currently without a Tennis court. The Top Ten targets as agreed are set out below and a Tennis-playing and well-connected local resident has been (or will be) identified as County Champion for each, as follows:

  •   Buckinghamshire
  •  Devon
  •  East Sussex
  •  Gloucestershire
  •  Kent
  •  Merseyside
  •  Somerset
  •  Wiltshire
  •  Yorkshire
  •  Scotland (Edinburgh)

The brief for the County Champion is to identify likely locations in each county and then to find a suitable Project Champion to carry forward the most promising of these.

UK map
Existing and Top 10 Target Counties

Ambition

The ambition is to develop at least one site in each of the Top Ten Counties including Scotland although it is recognised that this is likely to take an extended period of time.

The gestation period for any new court is at least five years and, in many cases, it may well be that one would be required to fit in with the institution’s development programme which could well have academic, cultural or different sporting priorities before a Tennis project would be considered.

Tonbridge School
Tonbridge School
Marlborough College
Marlborough College

Target

For this reason, the Board have set a more realistic, achievable and financially affordable target of developing three new sites within the geographical priorities set out above over the next ten years up to 2030.

Having said that, there may be other sites which appear in counties which already have a court, and these projects will of course still be supported by the T&RA; we anticipate at least one new court here.

Consequences

Two new professionals will need to be recruited for each new court, which, for the purposes of this exercise, is assumed to be four new courts (three in the Top Ten counties and one further as above).

In addition, over the next ten years, it is reckoned that, with retirements and natural wastage, eight further new professionals will need to be recruited and trained. This aspect of the T&RA’s development programme is being addressed by the Investing in Professionals initiative.

T&RA Support and Advice

The T&RA is able to draw on the experience of various members who would be happy to help and advise in one or more of the following areas:

  •  Court design
  •  Quantity surveying
  •  Construction & engineering
  •  Property matters including planning applications
  •  Fund-raising
  •  Starting and running an efficient club
  •  Employment of professional staff
  •  Achievement of charitable status
  •  Preparation of business plans
  •  Presentations to boards and/or potential investors
 

Conclusion

As can be seen, the T&RA has an agreed, strategic ambition and realistic targets to develop new courts in order to grow the game of Real Tennis.

Using a conservative 250 new players per court, this programme would produce an increase of 1000 or, in other words, a 20% uplift in the number of active players within the ten-year period.

Please address any issues or questions arising from the above to Richard Dalzell at richard.a.dalzell@gmail.com.

Richard Dalzell, October 2020

The Tennis and Rackets Association is grateful for the sponsorship and support of:

Logo - Tennis and Rackets
Lead Sponsor for Tennis
Logo - Brown Advisory
Lead Sponsor for Rackets