Ace tennis players served with own league

July 26, 1996

The creation of a premier tennis league in British student sport has initiated changes which could eventually revolutionise its highest levels.

The decision of the British Universities Sports Association in Aberdeen breaks with the tradition of organising regular competition on a regional basis. Along with the division of some regional competition into different levels, it represents a shift towards more concentrated elite student sport.

Greg Jones, BUSA chief executive, said: "We have always been pulled two ways on this - our brief is to cater for fourth-team football and fifth-team hockey as well as people who compete at the Olympics."

The traditional "block fixture" system under which every team in every sport at one university plays its counterpart in another institution at the same time greatly simplified organisation, particularly of transport. But there had been concern both that top performers were getting insufficiently demanding competition and that there were too many one-sided matches.

Tennis is seen as an ideal sport for a pilot elite competition: "It is played by small teams and can be played indoors and at weekends," said Mr Jones. The plan has the support of the Lawn Tennis Association, which sponsors scholars at Cardiff Institute, Stirling, Bath and Loughborough. These institutions are expected to form the core of the Premier League.

* Applications to set up and run the British Academy of Sport will have to be in by October 31 and a decision will be made by the end of January 1997, the prime minister announced this week.

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