Rutherford Cross and the wider Livingston James Group give all employees two CSR days a year to allow them to get involved with charities or organisations of their choice on a voluntary basis. Here, Rutherford Cross’ Derek Lauder shares his experience as voluntary Non-Exec Director of Tennis Scotland, and the current challenges facing the organisation.
I have been fortunate to be a Volunteer Non-Exec Director with Tennis Scotland for just over three years now. As I write this currently we have the highest tennis club membership nationally in our history and it is still growing.
With the new and improved LTA funding arrangement in place along with the existing partnership with SportScotland, Tennis Scotland has grown its Executive Team from 12 to 20 with eight new hires in 2021. Tennis Scotland’s vision is Tennis Opened Up, delivering the legacy in Scotland. This means making tennis more accessible to as many across the country regardless of demographic, geography, age, sex, disability, or ability. Throughout the pandemic, there has been a significant increase across Scotland in the number of people taking up the sport or returning to playing. As a result, membership figures rose to 62,695 in 2020 from 57,840 in 2019, a rise of 5,125 (10% year on year).
One of the ongoing and major challenges faced by Tennis in Scotland and across the UK is keeping junior girls involved in the sport as well as competing through their teenage years. Emma Radacanu is going to be a brilliant role model for the sport and gives the LTA and Tennis Scotland a huge opportunity as we hope to encourage more girls into tennis. Emma’s achievement was so significant not only because she is only 18 years old, but because she came through qualifying – something that has never been done before in either the women’s or men’s game.
The key priorities for Tennis Scotland currently include:
The Transforming Scottish Indoor Tennis (TSIT) fund is a partnership between the LTA, SportScotland and Tennis Scotland looking to build new indoor tennis court across the country. We currently have three awards confirmed the aim of having 10 new indoor venues across Scotland by 2026. There is also a drive to develop public park tennis court spaces and existing tennis club facilities through the LTA Parks Renovation Fund. Scotland currently has 48 Park sites with a number requiring investment including courts in East Kilbride which Andy Murray highlighted recently. The CEO recently gave an example of working with local authorities to invest and upgrade existing public courts and asked other local authorities to get in touch regarding this opportunity. Especially on the back of the recent announcement of £30million now available across GB following representation to the government we the benefits of public tennis courts for all. Well done to Tennis Scotland and the LTA for this great initiative.
Tennis Scotland hosts one of the two GB National Tennis Academies at The University of Stirling and Dollar Academy. This ties in with one of the mission statements of Tennis Scotland to build a world class player development pathway giving players in Scotland the opportunity to train at the highest level without having to leave the country, which has been the normal path up until now. The National Academy has eight of the most promising junior girls and boys in the UK training and schooling in Scotland every day. Tennis Scotland also has a National Player Programme, which consists of Regional and National programmes for players aged 10 years and up. This programme also links in with District programmes, as well as clubs running performance squads for promising juniors. Scotland has a number of players competing and with a world ranking. Also, there are currently 12 Scottish Tennis players in US Scholarship programmes who are working towards a life in tennis after their scholarship.
As well as the Club membership increase detailed above, in 2020 there were over 270,000 adults in Scotland who played tennis either as Club members, as guests of members or on public indoor and outdoor courts. Across the UK 1.7m people play in public courts which makes up 40% of total participation albeit in Scotland by far the majority of the participation is within community based clubs.
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
Acknowledging that there is still a lot of work to be done in increasing the number of younger females into the sport and also the need to take this great sport into non traditional tennis target locations, progress is being made. Tennis club membership in Scotland is very close to 50/50 female/male whilst female club membership in Scotland for other sports is as low as 15% in some cases. In 2020 there were over 600 people living with a disability playing tennis a minimum of once a week through 12 Disability specific programmes across 25 venues. This is another growth area for the Tennis Scotland team and I know one that is a target for future growth. It has been fantastic to have Gordon Reid performing so well on the world stage as a key role model for young tennis players.
Competitions, Refereeing & Sponsorship
Tennis Scotland supports an extensive Competitions calendar which has seen an increase in regularly competing juniors across Scotland in 2021. In 2020, 179 Grade 5 & 6 events were held. These are aimed at Club standard level players and allows players to enjoy competition at their own level and provides a pathway to develop their game to a higher level. There are a number of excellent Grade 2 & 3 level events across Scotland aimed at the higher level and semi-professional level players of which Scotland have many of. One of the key focuses of the Competitions Team is to identify more Grade 4 and 5 level tournaments which are aimed at the higher club / county standard players.
In Scotland currently we have a high number of junior and open tennis tournaments that are over-subscribed with entries. This may sound like a good problem to have, however, if we are to properly open tennis up and continue to grow the game, we need to grow the number of competitions significantly across the country and at all levels. One of the major issues we face is separate from court capacity as we grow, is a lack of qualified tournament referees and this is a key priority in addressing the future growth of Competitions to meet demand. There are courses available at entry level for referees starting at R5 grade with a pathway up to R1 and beyond for those with aspirations to referee on the international circuit. Our priority is to train & develop more referees across the country to run our Tournaments at Grade 4 and 5 levels.
It is also clear with over 14,000 juniors in coaching programmes across the Scottish Clubs that Tennis Scotland need to continue its work around getting more players competing at Grade 6 level (entry level). From my time on the board and speaking to a number of coaches and club committee members there is some work to be done to educate and support coaches and clubs to deliver competitions at this level.
Another priority in developing Competitions is the drive to increase sponsorship of tournaments and the overall circuit. The TS Tour is a series of tournaments for both Ladies and Men’s players of all grades with the pinnacle being the TS Masters which is held in December. This Tour is currently seeking sponsorship and would benefit greatly from investment giving a commercial partner national profile at venues around the country all year round. There is the need to secure sponsorship for individual tournaments too providing businesses with the opportunity to invest in the sport.
Tennis Scotland recognise that even with significant growth across many indicators over recent years, there is great opportunity to further open tennis up and deliver the legacy and there are many ways that both individuals and business can get involved in the sport at this special time. Refereeing and Sponsorship would certainly be two of them.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate the Chief Executive and his team for all their hard work and for raising the ambition and successfully achieving new resources to start to build the opportunities to open tennis up for what is an exciting future for tennis in Scotland.
If you have any questions or would like to enquire about anything raised in this article, please feel free to get in touch at [email protected]