Newsletter – 28 November 2020

Published on November 28, 2020 by in SLTCC news


The AGM on 15 December 2020 will involve a decision that will affect all members for many years to come. The Board of Directors received representations from several croquet members asking to put out a statement, which you will find below, along with the Board’s response to the points raised.

It is vital that members engage with the process so that the Directors can feel fully confident in representing the views of as many members as possible. The proposition is set out under special resolution as follows:

That the board of directors is authorised to take both of the following steps:-
1. On or after 30 September 2021, to close the croquet lawn for the purposes of playing croquet and then to construct a new tennis court on the area where the croquet lawn is currently situated; and
2. To apply for planning permission and take all other necessary steps to construct a new clubhouse building, incorporating two new squash courts, on the currently unused section in the North West corner of the club grounds.

Letter from croquet members:

As you can imagine, the proposal to close the croquet section is very devastating news for croquet members. The Club has had a croquet section since 1899 and this is recognised as one of the oldest croquet clubs in the country. We have to thank mainly past croquet members who contributed to buying the freehold of the whole site in the 1920s and provided the loans to build the squash courts in 1974.

Croquet can be played by a wide variety of people, including those with disabilities, health issues and provides a healthy outdoor pursuit for older people. For example, the Vice Chair of the croquet section writes:  ‘I joined the Club as a tennis member in 1968. Over the years I have been captain of the men’s third team in the Kent league, Treasurer of the Club, Chairman, Vice President and President. About 15 years ago I had to give up playing tennis. However, I was fortunate that I could continue my long association with the Club by playing croquet. A lot of former tennis members over the past 50 years have likewise benefitted from being able to play croquet when they could no longer play tennis.’

One of the Board’s stated objectives is to show that the Club exists for the Community and is not just a members’ Club. We believe that providing a venue for croquet falls precisely within this objective and this section has become a valued facility in Sydenham.

Tennis income can be quite volatile. The accounts to 31 March 2020 showed a drop in coaching income of over 7%. With the forecast downturn in the economy and the threat of increased taxation, it is likely that people’s disposable income is going to be less in the next two or three years. This will have an adverse effect on playing income of the Club and we are not convinced that another tennis court would produce an overall increase in funds of £25,000 pa.

The response from the Board of Directors is as follows:

The Board of Directors appreciates the history of croquet at the Club and the contribution of section members over time, and has deliberated long and hard in coming to its recommendation regarding the future of both the section and the Club as a whole.

To secure the long-term future and success of the Club, the Board strongly believes that the only option is to close the croquet lawn and replace it with an additional tennis court. Resolution A provides the opportunity to promote the widest use of facilities within the community, support the retention of squash & racketball at the Club, and offer the potential for a new clubhouse within a few years.
The Board regrets the closure of the croquet lawn and upset this will cause. However, the Board has agreed to support the continuation of ‘Sydenham Croquet Club’ as a separate entity to preserve the heritage of croquet in the area if there is the possibility to move to an alternative location.

Whilst tennis coaching income was hit at the end of last financial year by the Covid-19 lockdown in March, resulting in a slight dip from the previous year, income and attendance is very reliable and has potential to grow with the addition of another court. 

Despite the restrictions in place since reopening in May, income from tennis has rebounded incredibly. In fact, membership has increased substantially – we have almost reached full year income from 2019-20 with four months still to go in this financial year.

Unfortunately, income from croquet has been shown over the last five years to be limited to £3,000 per annum. Current membership stands at 23, out of a total of 494 (October 2020), with some of these multi-sport members. Use of the lawn is almost exclusively by members and does not particularly serve the wider community, whereas tennis was played by over 500 non-members this year providing opportunities to a diverse range of individuals who do not want the commitment of membership.

Even during this blighted year, total tennis income will be in the region of £125,000 by year end, and in a normal year would reach around £185,000. Target income from an additional court is aimed at £25,000 per annum, which we believe is very achievable through retention and growth of membership, building the coaching programme alongside the Head Coach, and joining the LTA Rally scheme to further increase non-member participation. 

Please take time to read the full Business Plan which can be found in the Members’ area of the website, and provides much more detailed information regarding development and finances. Access to grants and loans for new projects will be dependent on a strong business plan and good management. The Club has reserves to build the new tennis court, but is optimistic about sourcing grants that are currently available.

Please do not underestimate that, without adopting Resolution A, there will be a continued decline in the fabric of the squash court building, which will lead to the closure of the section, and the bar area of the clubhouse will gradually fall into disrepair.

You can cast your proxy vote for the AGM using the online form here, or email me for more information prior to the meeting.
Dez Lewington
Club Manager
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