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What Happened To Our Once-Thriving Local Tennis Clubs?

By
BizAge News Team
Tennis player

Our lawn tennis clubs used to be something that made the rest of the world green with envy. Every Saturday they would be packed with older adults and kids, thrashing it out on the court. 

But in later years, that excitement has waned. Fewer people are using them

The question for people who believe that clubs are essential for civic society is why this is happening. Why are so many of these facilities closing or moving to the bigger cities? 

The Rise Of Gyms

Perhaps the biggest change over the last twenty years (and particularly the last ten) is the growth in gym membership. Going to the gym and hitting the weights was rare in the year 2000, and something that athletes and bodybuilders did. But today, it isn’t uncommon for 50 per cent of a city’s inhabitants to have a gym membership. 

The problem with these memberships, of course, is that they are replacing those at lawn tennis clubs. Many gyms are inexpensive and you can use the equipment immediately, which contrasts with having to wait for a court to become available. Furthermore, most also offer a replacement for the clubhouse in the form of bars, vending machines, and group exercise classes. 

Urbanisation

Urbanisation is another trend that is pushing people away from lawn tennis clubs. More people are living in big cities, with smaller communities being left with fewer people. Naturally, this means that there are fewer members to keep many of these institutions afloat, forcing many to close. 

The lack of green belt development relates strongly to this last point. While new communities in rural areas would likely foster the growth of these clubs, that’s becoming less common as planning restrictions kick into force. 

It is also harder to build tennis clubs economically in larger cities (unless the ground already owns the land). There simply isn’t enough space in many urban centres for a project like that. 

Shifting Preferences

There might also be shifting preferences involved. While tennis remains a popular spectator sport, fewer people want to play it. And that’s being reflected at the grassroots level. 

Currently, the most popular grassroots sports in the UK are football, swimming and athletics. Golf is also seeing a resurgence thanks to the popularity of golf on TV. 

Naturally, this is good news for sports shelter suppliers and the industry as a whole. But tennis clubs are being left behind. 

High Costs

Finally, tennis clubs might be seeing membership declines because of high costs. Membership fees tend to be greater than for football clubs, pushing up prices and reducing the number of people actively attending these institutions even further. 

Wrapping Up

In summary, tennis is in decline. The nation's clubs are experiencing a drought of players and young people wanting to take up the sport and get involved. 

Other sports are taking precedence, which is great, but more investment is needed. Tennis will probably return to its former glory if we see more British winners taking Grand Slams, but even when Andy Murray was at his peak, things weren’t heading in the right direction. 

Written by
BizAge News Team
From our newsroom
March 6, 2024