An East Kilbride father hopes the support of tennis superstar Andy Murray can help his daughter and other local children gain access to public tennis courts that have been abandoned.
Lanarkshire Live Sport told this morning how Allan Kay was dismayed when he turned up at his local tennis court at the John Wright Sports Center with his eight-year-old daughter Matilda to find the clay courts locked up and dilapidated .
As Maxwellton Primary School pupil Matilda remained “sad and disappointed”, Allan then took to Twitter and tagged Murray – along with his tennis champion brother Jamie and their mother/tennis coach Judy – in an article highlighting the problem.
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To Allan’s surprise, three-time Grand Slam champion Sir Andy took time out of his US Open preparations to retweet the post, calling the situation a “mess” and tagging the sport’s governing body Tennis. Scotland.
Allan has criticized the state of the area’s courts and claims South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, who are in charge of facilities, have already told him there is nothing they can do due to council budget cuts amid the pandemic .
But he hopes that with the two-time Olympic champion backing the snag campaign, it can lead to investment in facilities and a brighter future for youngsters who want to follow in Murray’s illustrious footsteps.
Allan, a father of three, said: “It’s fantastic that Andy Murray retweeted the post.
“But Matilda is sad and disappointed that she cannot use her local tennis court as it is a short walk from her home and her grandmother’s house.
“During the summer, along with many other parents, we paid for tennis lessons and summer camps and it’s expensive.
“But other than that the kids played tennis in the back garden.
“The other week we were on holiday in Portpatrick and we played for free every day on their public ground.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for them.
“Then when we get home and the kids are all saying, ‘Okay, let’s go play some tennis’, but we have to tell them that all the public courts are closed in East Kilbride.
“We are told all the time that everything is due to budget cuts.
“They don’t have the staff to deal with it.
“But can’t they make cuts elsewhere because the children are suffering.
“Council is removing facilities as everyone talks about fitness, walk to school, cycle to school, take fitness seriously.”
East Kilbride once had three public courts, with venues at the John Wright Sports Centre, Murray and Ballerup Recreation Areas.
All have been closed for a number of years and the only courts available in the town are at the private East Kilbride Tennis Club in Calderglen National Park.
The nearest public courts are in Hamilton.
Allan added: “The Murray’s is exactly the same, it was left in ruins.
“People mention that the one in East Kilbride in Calderglen is fantastic. I know it’s fantastic, but it’s not really local to us and you can’t just pay as you go. Kids can’t not just walk there; you need a car or some buses to get there.
“You can’t just tell the kids, let’s go for a ride with their racquets and a few books in their pockets.
“Judy Murray came back to us and said she was quite hurt and sad that facilities like this have been left in ruins all over the country, not just in East Kilbride.
“I hope something will be done to allow children to play tennis and progress in the sports they love.”
Allan’s campaign did not fall on deaf ears, however.
East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow MP Dr Lisa Cameron and local councilor Joe Fagan are also supporting his efforts.
Dr Cameron tweeted her support to say she would raise the issue with the head of the council and said Lanarkshire Live Sport “It would be wonderful if our public tennis courts could be redeveloped in East Kilbride, Scotland’s sixth largest city, and I will speak about this in my meeting with the Head of Council this week.
“Sports facilities are absolutely crucial to our well-being recovery and we must aspire to give every individual the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Mr Fagan, the representative for East Kilbride North, sent images of the city’s courts to Maree Todd, Scotland’s Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, in the hope of seeing future investment to restore the facilities.
But he also took aim at the “appalling decline”.
He said: “I have taken into account the concerns of a number of local residents regarding these tennis courts and the candid response from SLLC is that until more funds are available the tennis courts tennis are not a priority.
“SLC and SLLC both need to be candid about the local government funding crisis. Austerity is not an abstract concept. It is real and it is behind the appalling decline of these tennis courts and too many services and facilities in our community.
“A lot of politicians rushed to congratulate the Murray Brothers at the height of their success, hoping it rubbed off on them.
“They promised Scotland a Murray Legacy but I don’t see the proof of that in East Kilbride. I have sent photographs of the condition of the tennis courts to the Minister for Sport to show what is happening at the level local.
“I will continue to push for the investment we need locally, but the funding crisis needs to be resolved or there will just be more decline.”
South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture admits seeing benefits from reopening facilities, but their hands are currently tied due to budget restrictions.
SLLC chief executive David Booth said: “Access to East Kilbride tennis courts was previously provided free of charge and unstaffed.
“Over time, this led to equipment deterioration and taped lines.
“Council Lands Services crews have been maintaining the area through weed control and rolling but not in the last year and a half as grounds maintenance staff have been used in d other areas to assist with the council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We recognize the benefits of court reuse.
“However, the cost of doing so under current budget restrictions prevents this from happening at this time unless investment funds can be found and/or alternative options for service delivery are available. emerge.”
One option could be a transfer of community assets, but this would require a group to apply for ownership of the site and show how they could make better use of it.
It is understood that no such group has yet come forward, but with Andy Murray raising awareness and reporting it to Tennis Scotland, the hope is that this may change in the future.
Collette Stevenson, MSP of East Kilbride, said: “I have written to South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture to ask why this tennis court is in such poor condition.
“I understand that COVID may have impacted maintenance, but if SLLC is unwilling or unable to maintain its facilities, I am eager to hear if it will facilitate a transfer of community assets so that it can be used again.
“I will of course update accordingly when a response is received.”
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