A tale of two vans – it is the story of Judy Murray’s life. Twenty years ago, she was hurtling up and down the motorways taking a van full of talented Scottish kids across the Border to try to beat the English kids in her role as the national coach of Scotland.
Today, she is still racking up the miles, although this time it is in a van packed with equipment as she spreads the word about tennis. Out on the road, she shows teachers, parents, coaches of other sports – anyone who would listen – how to teach tennis to young kids. Getting kids to play is important, but getting people to teach them is vital. Murray is indefatigable and tennis exists in Scotland thanks to her alone but, sadly, nothing much has changed in all the years she has been the white van lady.
However, what has changed is that her two sons, Jamie and Andy, have been amassing grand slam trophies to a band playing in the past 12 years (six for Jamie and three for Andy). But now Andy’s career is coming to a close thanks to his chronic hip problems and Judy is desperate to establish his legacy – and that of his brother – before he finally retires.
Murray’s plans for a multi-sport centre at the Park of Keir are well known and now that she seems to have her planning permission issues resolved and she has her business plans in place, all she needs is money to get the project up and running.
The investment needed for the whole centre – which includes a gold academy – is around £18-20 million with the tennis hub of the project needing £6m. In all, the shortfall in their funding sits at around £8m and it is Murray’s hope that the government, the LTA and private investment could fill that hole. But investment in tennis, particularly in Scotland, has been pitifully small through the Murray brothers’ glory years.
“You’d have to say yeah there is money there, it just depends where the priorities are for the people who are allocating the money,” she said. “But I just think of what was achieved in Scotland against a backdrop of next to nothing – if you were a business, and there was an incredible area of productivity, you’d think you would invest in that area of productivity. Unfortunately it hasn’t been the case.”
At the same time, the LTA did have the funds to open its own National Training Centre in Roehampton, in south-west London, at a cost of $40m in 2007. Seven years later, the LTA closed the centre as it devolved elite training to regional centres instead. Today some juniors use the centre and some of the elite women players use the centre informally but there is no elite, high-performance programme based in Roehampton.
The LTA also receives massive pay cheques from Wimbledon each year, the “surplus” or profits from The Championships. Last year’s tournament generated an estimated £40m which will be handed over to the association. In 2017, the pay-out was £33.6m and in 2015, it was £37.14m. There is a lot of money sloshing around the LTA bank accounts and yet, as of now, none of it is heading to Dunblane to help out the Murray Centre.
Murray, though, is resourceful, and she is willing to consider any form of investment, from sponsorship to crowdfunding to philanthropy – she just wants to get the centre built and operational and then she can do what she does best: bring tennis to the rest of Scotland.
“We set it up as a charity trust so it is not for profit,” she said. “Any money made goes back into improving and repairing the facility. For me, it’s in our backyard in Dunblane and it’s all about families and community focused. It’s not an elite academy. When I started at Dunblane at the tennis club, I started out just trying to create a fun environment where kids could enjoy tennis. I brought all the other parents in to help me and we created this incredible thing that then transferred into the wider county. When I started as the national coach, I did the same thing, I brought the parents in because I had no staff and no money. I am just doing the same thing.
“My biggest wish is that there is a bricks-and-mortar legacy for Scotland and I can use that as a workforce-building centre for Scotland. People can come to me rather than me going out to them. Because if you don’t invest in people, we’re not going to get very far.
“There should be something to show for what both Andy and Jamie achieved, no question about that. I’ve got it all planned out, I just need the funding now.”