"The International Lawn Tennis Clubs or "ICs" as they are affectionately known around the world, have as their core values :
a) The enhancement of international understanding and goodwill through sport, specifically tennis;
b) The playing of matches between nations among tennis players who have played representative tennis overseas;
c) The maintenance, encouragement and development of the highest standards of good sportsmanship among players of all nations;
d) In particular the encouragement of the standards referred to in c) above among young players;
e) The enhancement of the lives of young people, many of whom may come from disadvantaged backgrounds, through teaching them the value of sport and tennis in particular;
f) The welcoming and entertainment of tennis players visiting their country from abroad.
Objectives and Outcomes
As we say farewell to the “noughties“ and reflect on the challenges which face the world, it is encouraging to find elements in sport that embrace the better aspects of man’s ability to endure nation to nation. Now, 85 years old, the International Clubs have aims and objectives that have evolved to meet the needs of a changing society and to ensure that the Clubs maxim ‘hands across the net, friendship across the ocean’ is sustainable and remains valid.
In the second half of the 20th century, 27 Clubs were formed from all five continents of the world and in the “noughties”, as the first decade of the 21st century is referred to, a further 6 Clubs were created. There are few major tennis playing nations who do not now have an International Club. In each country aspiring to have an IC, tennis needs to have reached a certain stage of maturity for a Club to be sustainable. To ensure that we can meet our objective of creating lasting international friendships, we will continue to encourage new nations to join.
The fun side of what we do is to play matches nation to nation in a series of bilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral events. The events between two nations are numerous and often have their origins going back many decades. For example, the French and the British have enjoyed biannual matches going back 81 years. When they play each other in the UK in the week before Wimbledon 2010 this will be the 150th match! The Americans and the Mexicans have an annual match, called the Coupa des Amigos, which goes back at least 30 years.
The quadrilateral events, sometimes involving Golf, include the Wallenberg Trophy introduced by Sweden where four nations play a mixed match annually. The French have recently incorporated, in memory of Robert Abdessalam, the former French IC President and Davis Cupper, a trophy for countries with which he was most closely associated, involving on a permanent basis Belgium and Spain, with one invited nation.
The Council of ICs, which administers the family of International Clubs worldwide, oversees a series of events which Clubs host on a regular basis, usually to celebrate an important anniversary. These include the Windmill Trophy (for players under 45 and veterans 45 and over); the Mercelis Trophy (for lady players under 40 and ladies 40 and over); the Potter Cup (for men veterans of 45 and over); the Caretta Trophy (for ladies of 50/60 and over); the Columbus Trophy (for men 55 and 65 and over); and the Juego de Pelota (for men over 70 and 75).
Thus, we achieve, through the promotion of these international competitions, our second objective of promoting good fellowship among international tennis players of the world.
Our third and probably most important objective, is to maintain the standard of sportsmanship and understanding among players of all nations and young players in particular. The culture of good sportsmanship is seen throughout our events. It is rare to see a moment of uncontrolled anger or a serious line call dispute in IC matches. When this happens, a simple reminder that the perpetrator is taking part in an IC event usually results in good sense prevailing.
To underscore this vital ingredient, the Council awards the Jean Borotra Sportsmanship Trophy to an international player who has shown outstanding sportsmanship on an individual occasion or throughout his or her career. This award in the last 12 years has been won by Stefan Edberg, Chris Evert, Todd Martin, Maria Bueno, Pat Rafter and Kim Clijsters.
The objective of involving young players carries a more important message. Young boys and girls who have set their sights on an international tennis career, often know little of the history of tennis and play very few team matches. We ensure that in some bi-lateral matches some of the more promising young players take part in these matches. In addition, in 2004 we introduced the IC Junior Challenge, where teams of boys and girls of 16 and under representing their countries take part in elimination competitions on their continent, followed by a finals at a different venue. The boys and girls travel as a team and experience the pleasure of performing where interdependency is key. They are made aware of the requirements of ‘fair play’ within the community of sport. In this way, we seek to achieve our fourth major objective.
As a relatively senior institution in tennis, the notion of ‘giving back’ has taken hold. Recognising that, with a network of 38 Clubs around the world, we could do more, we have launched a philanthropic programme. We have benefitted over many years from private donors but we have now moved up a number of gears by incorporating the International Clubs’ Charitable Development Programme that will allow us, in conjunction with ICs in different countries, to run tennis related programmes for disadvantaged children. This has already happened with clinics around IC events in Auckland, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, Florida and Tokyo. Objectives and Outcomes Tennis clinic in Auckland (New Zealand)
This year, with the assistance of the ITF, we are providing coaching know-how to a modern tennis facility in Burundi, where the concept of the social benefits of access to sport for all has taken root. These clinics and other programmes which are on the drawing board will allow us to achieve the important goal of helping others through tennis.
It is not possible to operate an international network without adequate income, a management structure and a professional executive. In the past decade we have totally revised our structure, developing specific disciplines of governance, finance, tennis management, marketing, IT and sponsorship and delegating these tasks to sub-committees. In addition, we have engaged the services of Paul Hutchins and his organisation to provide the professional back-up to hold the structure together. Thus, we ensure better governance and management as a prime ongoing objective to underpin our activities.
To finance our activities we have been fortunate to have the support of four sponsors. Lacoste who have helped us on a continuous basis since 2005; Compass who have contributed the lion’s share of the cost of the IC Junior Challenge since 2005; Banque de Luxembourg who are supporting our Charitable Development Programme; and HSBC who this year are sponsoring the IC Jean Borotra Sportsmanship Award. We are extremely grateful to these Companies for their assistance.
I am confident that in the area in which the ICs aim to operate and with the help of my many colleagues in Clubs around the world, the ICs can bring about greater friendship and understanding between nations, provide hugely enjoyable tennis to those who participate in our activities, ensure that the objective of good sportsmanship is alive and well and provide, through tennis, a means of adding hope to the lives of disadvantaged young people.
Barry Weatherill CBE
Council of International Clubs