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New perspectives

Phil Sandilands, newly appointed Business Development Manager of the TIA, shares some early thoughts on the immediate opportunities and challenges facing the UK tennis industry

Phil Sandilands comes to his position at the TIA with 30 years’ experience in the tennis industry, principally in facilities management and development. He was Director of Facilities at the LTA for ten years until 2001. He is a Director of Trioplus, a company that offers sport and leisure consultancy. Set up in 2005, it works with universities, governing bodies and local authorities. He is also Managing Director of PSA Sport Ltd.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Sandilands wants the sport to become “more cost effective”. As he told TIA UK News, he is not necessarily talking about club membership fees but “equipment, court construction, entry level tennis etc. There are other hard and soft resources one could look at to make it more economical to set up and deliver.” 

With barely time to get his feet under the table Sandilands, in characteristically efficient fashion, has been shaping a vision for his tenure leading the TIA. “There is lots of good stuff going on out there,” he said of the people and businesses in the industry. “I do think one of the roles of the organisation is to try and link with these exciting new initiatives. They are after the same thing – which is getting more people playing tennis.”

Sandilands, working alongside the board and Gilly English, Administration and Events Manager, is focused on helping to grow and drive the organisation through four linked elements – member retention, member growth, income generation and profiling and positioning.

He is mindful of the diversity of the membership base, which means that providing relevant benefits for members is not a simple task. “One of the challenges is a recognition that because we have a very varied membership, from the brands to independent traders, they need different things,” he said. “We need to make sure we do enough to develop the opportunities that are relevant to them all.”

Sandilands, who is based in Esher, Surrey, is thinking about next April’s Tennis Summit. The bar was set high with this year’s inaugural Tennis Summit, which was attended by 60 delegates at the Holiday Inn, Stratford. With six months to go before the event Sandilands is considering possible discussion topics. One of the subjects that could top the agenda is how the sport uses technology, “There are a number of sports that are bringing together new technology,” he said. “I think tennis is a little behind in that respect.”

He believes the Tennis Summit presents the organisation with an opportunity to share good practice and some of the success stories in the industry. “For example, there are a lot of things going on in parks,” Sandilands said. “Steve Riley’s work at Will to Win is the most prominent one, but there are a lot of other local coaches doing some very good things in parks which perhaps don’t get recognition. And it’s not just about the publicity. It’s about the opportunity to share the experience and learning in what they are doing.”

There is some fresh thinking in Sandilands’ approach, but he is also aware that one of the core challenges, which has been much discussed, is for the TIA to deliver insight. “To be able to conduct meaningful research into the state of the sport and the industry is something that I think the TIA should be doing, very much like they do in the USA,” he said.

There will undoubtedly be challenges associated with delivering some of his goals, but it is evident that Sandilands has already built up quite a head of steam. Combined with the momentum generated by the recently re-jigged council and board, this is clearly a fresh start for TIA UK.

Phil would like to hear from any members who are interested in providing feedback to help build the profile and benefits of TIA membership. He can be contacted on phil@tiauk.org or 07786 390855.