Wheelchair tennis charity faces funding crisis

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MEMBERS of a wheelchair tennis club have raised fears it will be game, set and match unless they can secure more funding.

While most tennis fans are still revelling in the success of Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win, Winning Wheels could wind up in a matter of months.

Ross McLaren has played at the club for three years. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Ross McLaren has played at the club for three years. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The charity, based at Craiglockhart, is struggling to survive after failed bids to secure grants from charitable organisations.

The club, which costs £2000 a year to run – including court costs, equipment and coach fees – is down to its last few hundred pounds. Some coaches have been giving their time for free but there are fears they will walk away and there will be no-one to help at the Sunday training sessions.

Set up five years ago, the club, which also hosts an annual tournament, uses specialist wheelchairs which cost around £400 and need regular maintenance.

Craig McLaren, whose ten-year-old son, Ross, has played at the club for three years, joined the committee six months ago. He said the weekly sessions were a “lifeline” to many members.

He said: “Ross loves it because he’s getting to play sport and there aren’t many sports he can take part in.

“It’s also great for him to meet other people in wheelchairs to show he’s not alone and there are other people in the same position as him.”

Now members are rallying to save the club by taking part in sponsored bag packs and other activities. Tennis Scotland and the Tennis Foundation provide some financial backing to the club but said, like all charities, it had to become self-sustainable.

Andrew Wraitt, disability development manager for Tennis Scotland, said: “We are very supportive of what they are doing and continue to offer them support and financial assistance as well.

“The players get a great deal out of it and there’s a great pathway within wheelchair tennis if anyone is really keen to progress. It’s a great sport.”

• Wheelchair tennis was founded in 1976 when Brad Parks first hit a tennis ball from a wheelchair – and realised the huge potential of the sport.

A Paralympic event, it is played on a regular tennis court with no modifications to racquets and balls. The only major difference in the rules is that a wheelchair tennis player is allowed two bounces of the ball. This makes it possible for wheelchair tennis players to play against able-bodied players. Specially adapted wheelchairs have to be used.