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Survey reveals healthy participation figures for British tennis

Research suggests that more people in the UK are playing tennis as a result of Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon last year and the London 2012 Olympics

Results from the global multi-sport participation survey conducted by SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. revealed that 4.18 million people play tennis in the UK, which is comparable to France.

France has 14 top 100 players in the ATP and WTA, but Britain are not far behind their neighbours in terms of participation, despite having only Andy Murray and Heather Watson ranked inside the world’s top 100.

However, while 7.1% of the population in both the UK and France play tennis, the frequency of participation across the Channel is higher. In France 5.1% of the population (3.09 million people) play at least 12 times a year compared with just 3.6% in the UK.

“On average, these ‘core’ British players play 20.2 times a year, while in France this figure is closer to 30,” said SMS INC’s managing director, John Bushell.

More than 25% of participants in the UK said they played more tennis in 2013 than in the previous 12 months, which bodes well for the industry.

“Needless to say, retail growth reflects the increased interest in the game as participation grows,” said Bushell. “This expansion in the UK can certainly be somewhat attributed to the Olympic legacy, accompanied by the influence of British stars like Murray and Watson.

“Whereas ball sales (around 1.3m dozen per year in the UK last year) indicate the amount being played, the sales of rackets can display the potential and intention to play the game. Racket sales in the UK grew by 10% between 2012 and 2013, while Europe as a whole saw a 1% downturn.”

Bushell also believes that the LTA’s recent decision to relocate Britain’s elite players from the National Tennis Centre to high performance centres around the UK is a positive move.

“We fully support Michael Downey’s decisive action as British tennis has not flourished in the last few years as a result of that (NTC) model of elite training,” said Bushell. “From SMS Inc’s Tennis Europe Junior Elite Player Survey, we know that 90% of the best junior players in Europe are training with their coaches at least three times a week, a volume which will be better handled by multiple local centres than a single national centre.

“If a few elite players and an Olympic Games can help stimulate participation and the industry, then British tennis may well be better served with multiple local centres serving as bases to a higher volume of UK core players, and where the players can spend more time, and thus form a better rapport, with their coaches.

“It appears that British tennis is moving in line with the well-known adage, ‘Think Locally, Act Globally’.”