The British tennis scene in recent history has been anything but rosy. As a nation we have been unable to get one of our own players into the final of Wimbledon since the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. We currently do not have any British female Tennis players in the top 150 of the entry system rankings and even more depressingly, Tim Henson’s defeat in the Pacific Life Open Master Series in Indian Wells signified for the first time in six years the loss of the only British tennis player ranked in the entry system top 20. Despite this evident lack of success at an international level, tennis is regarded as one of the nation’s wealthiest sports. This essay sets out to illustrate the source of the sport’s income and its current distribution of spending to the various constituents of the game and in during so will provide a critical analysis. This analysis will be based on the LTA’s ability to match its own stated aims, of its vision to make Britain a great tennis nation and its mission to create more players and better players (LTAï¿½, 2001).
These two issues will be considered separately, initially considering the current number of participants, how this reflects with other nations and what the LTA has done to increase this figure. During which I will also consider the extent to which there is provision to play tennis in this nation. I will then turn my attention to the efforts which have been put in place to develop talent and increase the quality of tennis players in this country. In order to be able to understand the constituents of what leads to a successful tennis development programme, comparisons will be made with other tennis playing nations which have shown far greater national success that ourselves. Identifications of the disparity between ours and their tennis organisation will be highlighted and as a consequence recommendations will be made for implements towards possible changes in spending that are deemed necessary in order to decrease the difference between the two. Finally I will consider whether the two aims of the LTA are mutually support or are actually antagonistic.
The Lawn Tennis Association is the British governing body of the game. Its greatest asset and income arises from the staging of the annual Wimbledon Championships. Since 1981 when the Wimbledon first exceeded the ï¿½1m profit mark, it has brought in a total of ï¿½420.5million (Roberts, 2002). In 2002 this equated to a staggering pre-tax profit of ï¿½26.6m, (LTAï¿½, 2002) a ï¿½6.44m drop in 2001’s championship, largely due to the unfavourable economic climate following September 11th and decreased television revenue.
The Championship provides the majority of the LTA’s spending budget. Various Tennis orientated charities provide additional financial assistance. The most significant of which is the British Tennis Foundation, which contributed ï¿½9.4m towards Tennis development in 2001 (Charity Commissionï¿½). The Cliff Richard Tennis Development Trust, which had a total expenditure of 249,095 in 2001 makes grants to individuals and organisations, (Charity Commissionï¿½) as does the British School Tennis Association which had a 2001 expenditure of 127,852 (Charity Commission) The summation of the LTA incomes provided the LTA with a reported spending budget of ï¿½30.3m in 2002 (LTAï¿½, 2002). The allocations of these funds are highlighted in Figure 1. Development of more players
In a comparison of the total number of players in European tennis nations (see Figure 2) it was demonstrated that Great Britain actually has the highest stated number of tennis players. If this is the case and we have do have the most number of tennis players in Europe, then it seems bizarre that the LTA should need to spend 6% of its budget on promoting the game to increase numbers still further. However, this figure is rather misleading and a better and a more revealing analysis can be seen when the actual number of registered players and particularly juniors are considered (see figure 3).
From this analysis it becomes evident that Great Britain lies far behind when the number of registered players with a club and particularly the number of registered juniors are compared and it is these indicators which better represent the number of players playing regularly. In an attempt to readdress this issue and increase participation especially amongst the young in Britain the LTA is spending more than ï¿½750,000 a year on Mini-Tennis initiatives (22% of the 3.3million budget). Currently this has produced 568 accredited mini tennis clubs and centres, trained 1200 coaches and encouraged 48,000 young people to play mini tennis (LTAï¿½, 2002).
In a survey conducted by the LTA (LTA 2003) it was discovered that 4-11 year olds tennis participation had increase from 6-7% in 1998-2001 to 12% in 2002, possibly indicating the success of the Mini-Tennis initiatives. However, the 12-17 age group has seen a decrease in participation from 18%-22% in 1999-2000 to only 14% in 2001-2002, and also in the 18-24 age group from 12% in 1997, 1998 and 2000 to 8-9% in 2002. In an overall calculation, despite the positive increase in under 11 year olds participation, the direction of the participation trend is downwards. The realisation that the problem lay in the dropout rate during the transition of juniors to senior clubs has led to spending to remedy the effect thought the partnership of Robinson’s in a junior tennis programme which encourages clubs to provide quality tennis programmes for young players between 9 and 14.
One of the problems that is faced in this area is that although money is directed towards it, the money does little to break down the barriers and culture of many adult clubs, their traditional nature and attitudes to junior filtration into them. To add to this predicament tennis has lost ground in terms of players first or equal favourite sport from 54% players in 1999 to 41% in 2002, tennis players report on average to participate in more that three other sports in addition to tennis.
The LTA allocated 33% of its budget in 2002 towards facility development. Providing the provision for people to play tennis is an essential ingredient if the LTA desires more people to participate. Yet, figure 4 demonstrates that we are second, only to Germany in comparison to the actual number of tennis courts we have in this country, despite our relative disadvantage in land area. The leads you to question the reasoning behind the LTA’s allocation of 33% of its budget to this area. It could be argued that we lack in the number of indoor courts we possess especially with our less than favourable climatic variations. We currently only have one indoor court per 58,000 population, in France that figure is 1 per 14,000, and in Sweden it is 9000 (Rowbottom, 2002). It was noted by the LTA development officer, Roger Draper that “although thirty million pounds might sound a lot, but it costs around ï¿½1million just to build a four court indoor court.” However, progress has been made on this front with the construction of a 1000 indoor courts in the last decade (Jago 2002).