At this rate, clubs will be forced to the wall

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The Independent Online

They've been serving aces down at Aldersbrook Lawn Tennis Club in Wanstead, East London, since 1904. It is probably typical of the 2,400 tennis clubs around the country and, with 65 juniors offered profess-ional coaching among its member-ship, is an important amenity in the area. Yet, it is one of the voluntary sport clubs whose existence is threatened by proposed Govern-ment changes to the tax laws. Local authorities have discretionary powers to grant rate relief to sporting clubs. But if Government plans, revealed last year in a Green Paper, go ahead, any amateur sports club with a rateable value of more than £8,000 a year would not be eligible for relief. Instead, they would be treated the same as small businesses. The Central Council for Physical Recreation, in partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board, the English Golf Union, English Indoor Bowling Association, Lawn Tennis Asociation, and Royal Yachting Association, wants the Government to abolish the present system and introduce a mandatory 80 per cent reduction on rates, the figure which applies to charities. Aldersbrook's members pay £150 subscription a year, but still have to organise regular fund-raising activities to balance the books. The club's rateable value was £11,000, which would have meant annual rates of around £3,500. Brian Spinks, a member of the club for 40 years, and its former secretary, has appealed against that rateable value and the bill is down to about £2,000. But he stressed: "Had our rateable value stayed the same, the scheme would have put the continuation of our club in great jeopardy. And that's even allowing for the fact that we currently have our highest level of membership."

The week of twin peaks for fast Eddie

Darren Clarke experienced Double Bogey Blues on Thursday, but not in the Volvo Masters where he is hoping to confirm his third Order of Merit runner-up position in four years. As the Ulsterman was teeing off, the five-year-old racehorse he owns in a syndicate with, among others, motor racing owner Eddie Jordan was defying his 12-1 odds with a 14-length victory at Thurles racecourse in Ireland. The animal is owned by the F-One Syndicate and where the Formula One owner was concerned, it was the second time last week that he was able to describe himself as "very emotional". The first was a rather more serious matter, the completion of a 400km cycle ride through southern Spain, to raise money for the charity CLIC (Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood). On route, he met parents who had lost their children to the disease and "it helped put things into perspective". Cycling (together with drumming) ranks as Jordan's favourite pastime, an obsession he shares with Takuma Sato, his new driver for next season, who only six years ago was a teenage bicycle racer, fantasising that his two-wheel conveyance was a racing car.

The view from those over there over here

What do the foreign contingent among our football ranks make of it all? The Strike, that is. If the Liverpool full-back Gregory Vignal, who hails from France, is anything to go by, our friends from abroad have decided to watch events between the PFA and the Premiership over television money unfold from the sidelines. "I spoke to Jamie Redknapp when the threat of a strike first appeared and told him I would be happy to support the player's actions," he said. "But then when I got the chance to vote, I felt that it was not right for me to get involved. I am a guest over here so I don't really have the right to impose my views. I feel that most of the foreign players might have thought the same way as I do."

The announcement last week that a new rowing lake is to be built near Sonning on Thames was enthusiastically received by Sir Steve Redgrave. Whether you'll ever find the five-times Olympic gold medallist on it is another matter.

The four-lane lake, to be known officially as The Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent CBE Rowing Centre, will be used purely for training. Though Redgrave has continued to have a close association with the sport, it has been principally from dry land. Withdrawal symptoms have been slight. "I haven't been back in a boat since Henley," he told me. "I haven't missed it at all apart from the World Championships. I felt I wanted to be part of that. But it doesn't really feel that I've retired. It feels that I'm still on the three-week holiday we used to have between a World Championships or Olympics and starting training." The closest he will get to water again is in Mauritius next month. He and wife Ann have been invited to a week of marlin fishing.

Gordon Taylor was the somewhat portly and opinionated representative of the footballers' union, who represented his members' interests vociferously. Suddenly, his forceful prosecution of the PFA's dispute with the Premier League has transformed him into almost a cult figure.

The Ipswich chairman David Sheepshanks' favourite description of him is "Scargill-esque" while a Radio 5 listener labelled him "Rambo-esque". How his members emerge in the long term from this battle will determine whether he comes to be regarded with the distinction of one of his predecessors, Jimmy Hill, in 1961. Or whether he has merely been a protagonist in an episode which can only be described as grotesque.

Exit Lines

When someone as mild-mannered as Paul Scholes starts to question someone like Fergie, you know there is something wrong. Tommy Docherty... Roberto Carlos insisted on offending me, my family, my mother. I couldn't stand it any more and I spit on him. He deserved to have his face broken. Paraguayan keeper Jose Luis Chilavert... Me and Frank will always be friends. Lennox Lewis after parting with manager Maloney, who threatened to sue... Now the TV revenue boom is coming to an end, increases in players' wages will have to stop if clubs aren't to go bust. Greg Dyke

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