Sport in the UK

Part of Social Security – in the House of Commons at 8:17 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 8:17 pm, 4th February 2019

There is a danger that we might get a bit ahead of ourselves but, yes, I agree that, in the time to come, there should be a statue to Andy Murray in Dunblane, perhaps to sit alongside his gold post box. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will commission the statue himself.

That brings me on to the Murray legacy. The staggering success of the entire Murray family is and will continue to be a positive thing for Scottish tennis, as well as tennis across the UK, yet their rise to become the best tennis players in the world has exposed funding and governance imbalance issues that need to be taken seriously, lest we risk squandering the opportunities that their success could provide us with: opportunities not only to nurture future champions, but, just as importantly, to give more people the opportunity to play tennis. To achieve that, we need to be frank about where we are going wrong.

At the age of 15, Andy was advised by one Rafael Nadal that he would have to move away from the UK if he wanted to become a professional. That was 16 years ago, and not much has changed. Scotland is one of the world’s leading nations for tennis, thanks to the success of not only the Murrays, but Gordon Reid, the former world No. 1 in men’s wheelchair tennis, and others. However, it is an indisputable fact that Tennis Scotland has been drastically underfunded by the Lawn Tennis Association. Despite Scotland’s enviable success, the LTA gave Tennis Scotland just £650,000 in 2017, from a budget of £60 million UK-wide. That means that Scotland, with some 8.5% of the UK’s population—and the UK’s best players, Davis cup coach and so on—received just 1% of the revenue funding available from the LTA. In 2018, that allocation was slashed to just £582,000.