The decision by British Tennis’s governing body to close its North East development office will create obstacles for up-and-coming talent, according to sport chiefs in the region.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is to close its base at Sunderland tennis centre as part of a re-structure, which will see the entire north managed from Bolton and Leeds.
Critics are worried the move will lead to “isolation” and less investment for North East sport, but the LTA say they will be investing more rather than less in the area going forward.
Malcolm Dix is chairman of Sport Newcastle - a charity which offers funding and support to men, women and children wishing to play sport, and sponsors junior tennis tournaments in the city.
He said: “The move doesn’t surprise me, given that Sport England moved their regional office to Manchester some time ago, but as the LTA is one of the richest organisations in sport, I find it incredible. They should be expanding here to capitalise on some excellent local talent. It is extremely sad.”
He added: “What we need is for organisations like this to invest in facilities, because that is what our up-and-coming stars need. We don’t need isolation. Where is the legacy of the 2012 Games we were promised?”
Both Jesmond and Gosforth lawn tennis clubs said they are looking into the change.
The LTA office in Sunderland employs three people - two will be kept on in their existing remote working roles and the third part-time employee will lose their job.
A spokeswoman for the LTA, which was founded in 1888, confirmed the closure.
But she added: “We understand clubs may have reservations but it is not true that we are going to withdraw investment - if we thought that, we wouldn’t bother with this re-structure, which is designed to streamline support to regions and give the responsibility back to these areas.
“Newcastle is one of 36 priority areas and across the North we will be increasing our number of development officers from four to six, including one solely covering Newcastle. This is a significant increase in both personnel and technology.”
The office will close on September 5.
The building itself will remain the headquarters of the Durham & Cleveland County LTA.
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