Tennis Sussex – Our Future. An open letter by Anne Clark – Chair of Tennis Sussex

 

Firstly, I do hope that you and all those closest to you are keeping safe and well in these worrying and uncertain times.

 

Please see below a status update on Tennis Sussex. As many other clubs and associations are finding, it’s not an easy time. 

 

Apologies for the length of this email, but I want to explain the situation we are in and ask for your feedback, support and any ideas on how to generate more income, as well as asking that you offer any assistance if you can either personally or through your networks. Julie will be contacting many of you,but in the meantime if you have any ideas, contacts etc. please do email her on Julie.goldin@tennissussex.com (noting it may take a bit of time for Julie to reply) or myself on chairperson@tennissussex.com.

 

Our mission remains to “help grow tennis by making it relevant, accessible, welcoming and enjoyable” which supports the LTA‘s vision of “Tennis Opened Up”.

 

Specific County objectives are:

1. Tennis Sussex to have a bigger profile in the County

2. To offer more competition for juniors & seniors for all abilities of the game

3. To create more opportunities for more players to play tennis

4. To create and deliver a clear player pathway as part of our County/performance programme (all ages, all levels, all abilities)

5. To offer more opportunities for Disability Tennis within the County.

 

We have a duty to Sussex to continue to try to grow tennis and to work on options to provide a good service (which is part of what the Club registrations are paying for) whilst keeping a very close eye on our finances (costs and income). We have an extraordinary opportunity to promote tennis at present as, despite the pandemic, tennis is seen to be a safe sport, provided the regulations are followed.

 

Those of you who attend the Tennis Sussex (TS) AGMs or read the County details will know that the funding to support the County comes from two main sources. Approximately £46k comes from registration fees (the LTA have kindly refunded Clubs and allowed Counties to keep these amounts this year). TS had also budgeted for approx. £65k of sponsorship income which was due from a number of our longer-term sponsors along with a couple of new supporters. We had been in discussion with others for additional income when the lockdown started. As things currently stand, we only have commitment to receive £1k of this, so are budgeting to be over £60k down. We also benefit from a few other smaller grants and other income streams.

 

Since the LTA set up 5 regions and stopped supporting Counties (6 years (?) ago) the only way Counties could continue to support at a local County level was for them to run on a voluntary basis. Sussex were in the fortunate position of having sufficient funds to pay for resource to work alongside the volunteers. It’s a weird situation where we have paid staff reporting to volunteers (myself as Chair and the other 8 members of the Management Board (MB)).

 

Income goes towards many activities including supporting competitions, County Championships, County teams (juniors, adult and seniors – not much need this year), County training, providing loans to clubs for facility improvements, liaising with the LTA regional and national teams, helping market and promote tennis, supporting disability and community activities, working with school’s tennis, running the very successful awards and funding the resource in the County office.

 

In Sussex we have a General Manager (GM) (2.5 days a week– Julie Goldin) and two part-time TS Co-ordinators (15 hours each a week – Phil Latham & Nikki Palmer (with Jason Squire covering while Nikki is on sick leave)) providing admin support. They handle general queries; support for clubs; liaison with and support for coaches; newsletters; support for leagues and other competitions; County teams; She Rallies; Schools tennis; awards; book keeping and invoicing; support for the Performance Manager (PM); County training etc. We also employ a part-time Performance Manager (PM) (17 hours a week – Keith Pullin) who started last August to help us develop a County player pathway, manage and enhance the County training programmes, oversee our County junior teams and raise the profile of County tennis. In addition, we have a Disability Manager (Liz Squires) who works one day a week to support the LTA Open Court Disability Programme and other disability tennis opportunities across Sussex. Both the PM and the GM havethe objectives set of funding themselves within two to three years.

 

Sadly Sussex (along with many other Counties) has suffered due to the pandemic and the subsequent impacts on sponsorship. We put the majority of the staff on furlough and are now having to make decisions on moving forwards. Our deficit this year is likely to be in the range of £20k to £30k. Last year the deficit was £13k. We have reserves but cannot continue to eat into these at the current rate if we are to resource back to the previous levels without confidence that income streams can at least cover the costs. 

 

We are working through all the cost items and reducing these where possible. Our thanks go to the Pavilion & Avenue Tennis Club for their help with reducing the rent for the TS office for a period. One consideration moving forwards is whether we can and need to continue to have an office. There are many other debates to be had too. Previously the County Championships has run at a loss. This cannot continue and for any future tournaments the clear guidelines will be to at least cover costs. Our MB meetings are now held on zoom – they never cost much but every little helps – and we are meeting on a monthly basis instead of holding meetings on an 8-10 week basis as previously.

 

Financially the objectives are, short term, to minimise any losses this financial year (ends 30th September 2020) and, longer term, to provide income flows to match outgoings on a sustainable basis.

 

Options include:

1. reducing resource which would be done through a formal exercise of identifying requirements and following due process

2. having a go at pro-actively identifying and developing alternative income generating streams, short and longer term.

While, in parallel, assessing all cost areas and working on reducing where possible.

 

We are starting off with the second option on a pragmatic basis. We have asked Julie Goldin, the General Manager who many of you know, to work for four (4) days in July purely focused on developing incomegenerating ideas.

 

It’s a pretty tough challenge to expect a significant turn-around in just 4 weeks but we are hoping to be able to gauge whether there is sufficient financial confidence to support retaining the resource required to progress our objectives or not.

 

Examples of the schemes include an Auction of Promises; amendments and expansion of our current Patron’s scheme (Tennis Sussex Supporter’s Scheme); and starting to identify potential sponsorship leads.

 

We will also be looking to identify volunteer roles and will advertise for them with clear briefs (e.g. two other suggestion are to run a 100/200/300 lottery scheme and to request legacies).

 

Regarding Keith and the PM role, we have asked Keith to work for two days in July. He will work with Phil in the office on proposals for income-generating ideas including planning on options to complete the County training for our juniors where they stopped mid-way in March. We may be able to develop some workable tennis activities in August and although it won’t be possible to run a County Championships in the normal format we would like to run smaller competitions, fun activities, family groups etc. – watch this space!!

 

One other idea we will be progressing is to challenge the County training players to think of ideas to raise money to go towards their County training programme – a type of mini sponsorship.

 

If we are to continue promoting and supporting tennis in Sussex to the level we had planned and wish to, we have to look for other income-generating ideas, new sponsorship etc in these very difficult times. We fully understand the risks but would like to have a go.

 

We have a short time to turn things round as we are fortunate to have the reserves, but we cannot continue to eat into these without sound plans to increase income and/or reduce costs.

 

Many thanks to you all in advance and enjoy the tennis, weather permitting……

 

Regards,

Anne Clark
Chair, Tennis Sussex