Judy Murray: Tennis could become 'largely irrelevant'

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Media captionJudy Murray says tennis is in danger of becoming irrelevant

Judy Murray has told the BBC that tennis "could go back to being largely irrelevant in this country again" if more isn't done to improve facilities.

The warning comes in an interview with John Beattie for BBC Scotland's new current affairs programme, Timeline.

She expressed frustration at what she says are years of missed opportunities to capitalise on the grand slam success of her sons, Andy and Jamie Murray.

The Lawn Tennis Association announced a £15m investment in the sport last year.

The funding - half of which will come from SportScotland - would have a "transformational" effect on Scottish tennis, it was claimed.

'Creating a legacy'

Ms Murray said she wanted to see the investment doubled so that indoor facilities could be built across the country.

She is backing controversial plans for a major new development on green belt land between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, which would include 12 tennis courts.

"Andy and Jamie may only play for another two or three years, and when they stop playing, that's too late to start creating a legacy," she said.

"If you wait two or three years, when they've gone, tennis could go back to being largely irrelevant in this country again. It absolutely has to be done now.

"I think the key with this £15m for indoor facilities is to turn it into at least £30m so that we can really, really spread the courts across the country.

"But facilities is one thing, the activity within those facilities has got to be good. A bigger and better quality tennis delivery workforce is crucial as well."

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Image caption Andy and Jamie Murray competed in the Davis Cup in Glasgow in 2015 and 2016

Both of her sons ended a hugely successful 2016 as world number one, after clocking up a series of tournament wins.

Her youngest, now Sir Andy Murray, won Wimbledon for a second time and knocked Novak Djokovic from the top of the world standings.

The brothers, who grew up in Dunblane, even managed to return to Scotland, competing in the Davis Cup in Glasgow in front of a huge crowd.

The success of such high profile events prove that there is a huge appetite for tennis in Scotland, said Ms Murray.

"For us to actually have some bigger events up here has just put fuel to the fire," she said. "There is a demand and the time is now."

The tennis coach added: "In the last nine years we have missed a massive window of opportunity to really grow the game, because there have been no new indoor courts built - not courts that are available to the general public - in the nine years that Andy's been in the top five.

"So it's been an enormous source of frustration to me because I've seen the opportunity that the success of the boys has presented to our sport, and yet nobody has really grasped it and seen what we could do."

Image caption The tennis coach was interviewed by John Beattie for BBC Scotland's Timeline programme

Tennis club membership has increased by 42% in Scotland, according to the Lawn Tennis Association.

Its chief executive, Michael Downey, said it aims to double the number of covered courts in Scotland within 10 years, and to increase participation across the board.

He said the £15m investment announced last month was the "largest ever capital investment for tennis in Scotland and will make tennis more accessible for years to come, improving facilities and bringing certainty of play to a region that richly deserves it.

"Scotland is an area that sees on average 200 days of rain a year and we recognise that it is under-resourced versus the rest of Britain and other European nations when it comes to the number of covered tennis courts per capita.

"We believe that we can leverage even more funds through local government and other partners, so that figure is expected to increase significantly."

Mr Downey added: "Our door is always open for collaboration with the Murray family, as they played such a critical role in raising the profile of our great sport."

Timeline is broadcast on BBC Two Scotland at 19:30 on Thursday. It will be available afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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