Road tennis, the island’s lone indigenous sport which has grown tremendously over recent years and attracted a large following at tournaments, is also feeling the Coronavirus (COVID-19) impact.
Dale Clarke, chief executive officer of the Professional Road Tennis Association (PRTA) of Barbados said there were plans to market road tennis globally in places such as Pennsylvania, Australia, Europe and Asia. Also, the return of the Monarch of the Court tournament for the fifth time after a year’s break was also one of the most anticipated events for this year.
But Clarke projected that going forward under the prevailing situation it might be difficult to attract sponsorship. He said, however, that PRTA would look at innovative ways to promote the sport.
“Like all other sporting organisations, the coronavirus has derailed our plans for the year. Hopefully, by next year things would be better and we are aware that it would take some time for people to get back the confidence to mingle again. So, bearing all those things in mind we just decided to shelve our plans and look for more creative and innovative ways to keep the sport relevant.
“We had some advanced plans and our players looked forward to getting that extra income. Our stakeholders, the officials, they usually look for revenue sources and that has dried up. And I know how the climate is going to be, actually trying to get sponsorship, how difficult it is going to be going forward, especially local sponsorship with how the economy is going now,” Clarke said.
He added: “We are just trying to be creative, stay positive and find ways where we could still work with the local sponsors. Advertising is still important, getting your company out there. So we are looking at innovative ways where we could promote the game. Also, that is the sponsors’ benefit, they get the visibility of partnering with us.”
In terms of the international events to market the sport, Clarke explained: “We were planning to do the pop-up tournaments, events where we would have featured Barbados’ number one player Mark ‘Venom’ Griffith. So basically persons would have gotten the opportunity to play against him while promoting the sport with the intention of holding a major amateur tournament even though we are a professional road tennis association. Persons that had won in their cities would have been invited to Barbados to participate in an amateur leg. They would have been the amateur champion of the world.”
The PRTA boss also revealed that going forward his executives were considering streaming matches online to the public who would pay a subscription fee.
“The crowds that road tennis tournaments attract, this social distancing thing might be the norm for a while. It might be the new norm where people don’t want to congregate. So, we are looking at doing tournaments where the players will be in a controlled setting and we have it where you pay, subscribe and you could watch the games using your mobile phones or tablets. We are looking at ways we would be able to do tournaments but it wouldn’t be tournaments where we are looking for physical attendance. We are looking more at ways we could use technology and hopefully build a crowd virtually,” Clarke explained.
Next year will mark 20 years PRTA has been in existence and Clarke said they intend to revive past tournaments such as Racquets of Fire and Clash of the Titans as part of their list of activities.
Spectators can also expect to see a fast pace version of the sport where players go up to 13 points, similar to T20 which is the shorter version of cricket. According to Clarke, this particular format has gained popularity and he believes that this is the future of road tennis.
One of the things he stated would continue was the road tennis community roadshow where members of PRTA go into districts and promote the sport at a grassroots level. The last one was held in 2019 in Checker Hall compliments of the Barbados Workers Union Credit Union.
Road tennis is among the few sports that can be played at a time when social distancing is required. In addition, it is one of the most cost-effective sports one can play especially during this period when things are financially difficult.
Clarke explained that this was the right time to start playing road tennis. He said: “A racquet in road tennis costs on average 25 Barbados dollars. Compare that to lawn tennis or table tennis racquets. So I believe that road tennis despite all the negativity going on with the COVID-19 virus, that we might have a silver lining in the dark clouds for it.”
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