Wimbledon 2019: LTA announce £250m to be spent on building 96 new indoor tennis courts

National governing body aiming to provide the availability of tennis in all conditions within a short drive of all players, amateur and professional

Matt Slater
Wednesday 26 June 2019 08:15
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The Lawn Tennis Association will invest £250m in 96 new indoor centres across the country to make sure almost everyone is within a short drive of a place to play, rain or shine.

The national governing body will focus its investment on areas currently without a good indoor facility and will pay for more than half of a project's costs if need be.

There are currently just over 300 indoor centres across England, Scotland and Wales, so this plan, which will be launched at a Westminster event hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow on Wednesday morning, is aiming to increase that number by a third within 10 years.

Speaking to the Press Association, LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said: "We want to ensure optimum coverage across the whole country and the goal is for 95 per cent of the population in England and Wales to have access to an indoor centre within a 30-minute drive.

"We can't quite guarantee that for Scotland because of its geography but we have already started the planning process for seven projects there which will provide 28 new indoor courts over the next 12-18 months, so we are filling the gaps.

"Obviously, we will be looking to work with partners, public and private, but we are willing to spend more money in some places than others because we know each place and project will be different.

"We are going to take a flexible and strategic approach to address the areas of most need and we want to break the perception that tennis is just a summer sport, or it's only for people in the south.

"With our climate, that means indoor facilities are crucial. We have lagged behind other European countries in terms of absolute numbers but we are blessed with the resources to do this and we want to inject pace and scale into the process."

Those resources include reserves of more than £160m and 90 per cent of Wimbledon's profits every year until 2053, a payment that amounted to £40m last year.

That was not enough, however, to stop the LTA from recording an £8.8m loss but Lloyd, who took over as boss at the beginning of 2018, is confident the organisation can afford its indoor courts plan.

Having launched the Next Generation Clubs chain in 1997 and run his father's David Lloyd Leisure group for almost a decade, Lloyd certainly understands the market.

The challenge for him and every other LTA boss is to find the next wave of British talent to replace the likes of Andy Murray and Johanna Konta when they hang up their rackets.

Earlier this year, Murray criticised the organisation for not building on his legacy and he pointed out that almost no indoor courts had been constructed in Scotland during his playing career.

That, at least, is now being addressed and the LTA plan promises 72 new centres in England, with 12 each in Scotland and Wales.

Lloyd explained that the key difference between this plan and the organisation's previous approach is the LTA has identified the target areas and will not simply wait for an application for funding.

The Lawn Tennis Association will build 96 new indoor tennis courts at a cost of £250m

"We have a great relationship with Andy, Jamie and Judy Murray and, like anyone who is passionate about tennis, I want to see the sport grow and that means at the grassroots and elite level," he said.

"Our views on that are completely aligned and we have an open dialogue about how to build on their successes."

PA

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