Published: 28 June, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY
AS it’s known in the trade, I did a bit of ‘a Mervyn King’, the tennis-loving governor of the Bank of England, and left my workstation this week and headed to Wimbledon for the first two days of the tournament.
As Mr King would explain: Annual leave, it was annual leave...
From Wimbledon, I learned a few things:
• Man alive, those players hit it hard in ‘real life’.
• British player Laura Robson deserves better than to be called ‘the Incredible Bulk’ as she was by the Daily Mail the day after her knockout defeat.
• The Wimbledon crowd will laugh at anything mildly amusing like it’s literally the funniest thing they’ve ever heard: a ball goes high in the air and bounces off the scoreboard, ha ha ha . There are two net cord deflections in a row. HA HA HAHAHAAHHAAAA. It must be something they put in the Pimm’s.
• A beaker of Pimm’s costs about £8. But most of all – and it’s been 15 years or so since I last was inside the grounds – I learned that Wimbledon is pretty inspirational place, because of its lush grounds, purple hanging baskets and grass carpet courts. The standard of tennis isn’t bad, either.
It makes you think how in some way – the way the place leaves you in awe with both the setting and skills on show – it could be better used to inspire more people.
On the show courts, there was an absence of younger faces in the crowd, a tiny amount of faces that weren’t white.
The voices around us were often plummy – and loud. From this view, friends who dismiss tennis as simply a game for poshos can build an unhelpful case.
Now the All England Club and the Lawn Tennis Association no doubt do a lot of work with schoolchildren and teenagers who join tennis clubs.
But let’s do even more.
More school trips to see the action itself. Handing tickets to tennis clubs is fine, but remember most children who go to tennis clubs are from families with disposable income. It’s hard for others to get involved unless they go through their school’s PE department.
You could break up the Centre Court action into day and night sessions (the second session being played under the roof and floodlights) to increase the numbers who get to see something, even if it’s just one match, on there.
Let teenagers have one day, just one day, out of secondary school education to attend.
Give them school excursion tours throughout the rest of the year so that every child in London can see what the place looks like, feels the feel of the place. They may walk away and say: Nope, tennis, still not for me. But I get the impression a visit to this spectacular resource on our doorsteps could turn the heads of even a few hardened cynics.
We are not talking about letting St Trinian’s stomp over Court 8 and smash the Fred Perry statue. We are talking about the next British hope not having a voice like Tim Henman’s.