The Wilthorpe-based club closed down on March 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown but has been open since last weekend. It is one of the only sporting clubs back in action across Barnsley. Only singles matches are allowed while the clubhouse remains shut and there are new rules to maintain social distancing.
Chairman Chris Day said: “We knew how eager all our members were to play tennis once it was safe to do so. “We were therefore delighted when the government made their decision to allow tennis clubs to reopen albeit in a restricted manner. In support of this decision, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) have produced many pages of detailed guidance aimed at clubs, players, and coaches. We have now introduced a detailed set of rules and measures and all our members have a copy of them.
“Our members’ safety is of paramount importance and we therefore have asked that they adopt a common-sense approach and follow the rules which should ensure that the club is a safe place to play tennis. We are lucky to play a sport where close person-to-person contact can be avoided and, with players on each side of the court, the government consider tennis a good example of an activity that can be undertaken within social distancing restrictions. We are incredibly lucky to be back playing the sport we love but people have more important issues in their lives to worry about at the moment.”
Barnsley Tennis Club underwent a £500,000 refurbishment two years ago with the intention of becoming one of the biggest and best in the region. Day believes the lockdown will not have a long-term impact on those plans. He said: “The timing of the lockdown coincided with our new membership year which commences in April. At the time of closure our membership was approaching 300, and we were this year looking forward to a significant increase in membership.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, however, stopped us in our tracks. Understandably our finances took a hit though thankfully we do have reserves and we also run a tight ship, so we were confident of our ability to manage despite the significant loss of income. The authorities have responded well to the financial impact of lockdown and I have been impressed. The LTA reimbursed our registration fees, Yorkshire Tennis have allowed us a loan repayment holiday, the local authority offer support grants, and Sport England have a hardship fund for clubs in difficulties.
“Thankfully, we did not need to apply to the hardship fund, but I know of many clubs who did and who received much-needed funding. While our membership income is down, we are optimistic that most will be recovered. Time will tell but the initial signs are good and – with fantastic playing facilities, a superb coaching programme and attractive membership packages – we are extremely optimistic regarding our future.”
During the lockdown, the self-employed coaches who work at the club received some financial help from the LTA while they had been posting exercises online that can be done at home. Day said: “Our veterans, most of whom are over 60, play twice weekly rain or shine and, for them, tennis is a great outlet. We also have around 130 juniors from age four upwards, most of whom were being coached weekly and some of whom are performance players who compete at county level. The impact of the lockdown has been far-reaching whether it be from a health, social, competitive, or junior development perspective. As for me, my house wall has proved a worthy adversary which I have struggled to out-rally.”