Tennis: Tennis on the Line? with the Number of Players Falling, Tournaments Closing and Coaching Being Withdrawn, We Ask Is North Wales.

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), November 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Tennis: Tennis on the Line? with the Number of Players Falling, Tournaments Closing and Coaching Being Withdrawn, We Ask Is North Wales.


Byline: MARK CURRIE

THE abiding memory of North Wales tennis over the summer was of Ian Flanagan's heroics at the Stella Artois tournament. But behind the national headlines that accompanied the Ruthin player's shock win over former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis, the reality is starkly different.

Tonight, at Tennis Wales North's AGM in Wrexham, fears over the future of the sport in the region will be voiced amid talk of the grass roots being neglected.

The latest figures show player numbers down 4. 5% year on year, two long established clubs have closed, a regular weekend league has disappeared and two tournaments, the North Wales Closed Championships at Denbigh and Colwyn Bay's junior event, have been cancelled during the past 12 months.

Tennis Wales North treasurer Alan Goodall believes not enough is being done to reverse the trend. He said: ``I've been playing tennis for 50 years and the situation is the worst in my memory. ''

He claims an organisational structure based in Cardiff does not adequately cater for outlying areas of North Wales, particularly Gwynedd.

``We have fewer tennis clubs members than at any time since 1996 and, if you exclude Wrexham, where a few million pounds have been spent, the membership is as low as it was in 1990, '' he said.

``The weekend league, which has been running for many years, is no more, and tournaments which were run for 50 years have not been held this year so there's a lot of work to do.

``My view, and one which is certainly held by people on the North and West Wales coast, is that the system has become too centralised. The feeling is that those areas have been marginalised.

``Where the sport used to be run by volunteers we now have paid officers, and those who control the pursest rings are based 200 miles away in Cardiff. We need a shift in policy so that decision-making and accountability is more localised.

``As it is now, these people are accountable to and take their orders from Cardiff. ''

At the last meeting of Tennis Wales North's management committee, treasurer Goodall's bid to make the regional tennis development officer answerable to the region's organisation was narrowly defeated, and further changes to the LTA regional structure also mean that Wales has lost its only national coaching position. Coaching responsibilites will now rest with the LTA's North West national coach Chris Peet in a move welcomed by North Wales secretary Trevor Webb. In his annual report Webb says: ``The move brings Tennis Wales more in line with the LTA's performance plan and increases the potential to secure additional resources. …

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