The chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has warned that at least a third of Britain’s community indoor tennis centres could close if they do not receive further financial support from the government.
The LTA supports a network of 54 Community Indoor Tennis Centres (CITCs) across England, Scotland and Wales, which deliver a range of tennis activity to local communities.
However, these venues have faced a significant loss in income as a result of measures imposed to try to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
The majority of the tennis centres, despite being allowed to re-open in July and August, have continued to operate at a loss, as operators take a cautious approach with minimum staff returning from furlough. These losses are expected to continue despite the government’s £100 million investment.
The current restrictions in Wales have resulted in the closure of all sports facilities
Recent tier two and three restrictions in England mean that able-bodied adults in those areas can only play tennis indoors with members of their households, or take part in one-on-one coaching sessions. The current restrictions in Wales have resulted in the closure of all sports and leisure facilities, while current rules in Scotland also limit indoor tennis activity.
The LTA welcomed a recent government announcement of a £100 million investment in public leisure facilities, but it has reiterated the urgent need for more comprehensive support through a Sports Recovery Fund.
Chief executive Scott Lloyd 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.
“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 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 centres to survive the Covid crisis and allow players to keep fit and play tennis during the winter.”