IRTA applies for official recognition

The IRTA is trying to gain official recognition as the National Governing Body (NGB) of sport for the sport of real tennis. The Irish Sports Council is the body responsible for such matters, and they give the following introduction to the procedure for becoming a NGB for Sport:

An organisation seeking Irish Sports Council (ISC) assistance (financial or otherwise) must be denoted by the ISC as a recognised National Governing Body of Sport (NGB). In order to gain recognition, the organisation must meet the following criteria, which have been established by the Irish Sports Council as required under Section 8(1) of the Irish Sports Council Act, 1999.

(The criteria mentioned are given below, with the IRTA's application.)

14 March, 2002: The IRTA submitted the following application to the Irish Sport Council. Each of the ISC's criteria is given, followed by the IRTA's response.

APPLICATION FOR RECOGNITION AS A NATIONAL GOVERNING BODY OF SPORT

Name of Applicant Body:

Irish Real Tennis Association --- Cumann Leadůige na h-…ireann

This application follows the 12 criteria outlined at Page 2 of the Irish Sports Councilís guidance document.

Explanatory --- Real Tennis

It is probably useful at the outset to clarify any confusion regarding the name of the sport, together with a brief historical perspective.

The original game of Tennis developed in its present form in the 16th century and has been played continually since in Europe and latterly in the USA and Australia. It is played across a net in a 4-walled court, usually roofed, with distinctive internal playing features.

In 1873 a variant of the game, simplified in rules and court infrastructure, was developed for play on outdoor lawns, and became known as Lawn Tennis. This game rapidly outgrew its parent to a point where the original became little heard of. The prefix "Lawn" was gradually dropped and Tennis became associated only with the "Wimbledon" game.

Faced with this usurping of its own proper name, the ancient game was compelled to adopt a distinguishing prefix --- a reversal of the 1873 position.

Real Tennis is the name now commonly used worldwide and has two possible derivations --- "Real" in the sense of being the original --- "the real thing", and "Real" as in the Spanish, e.g. Real Madrid, meaning Royal and referring to the patronage afforded the game by many of Europeís Royal Houses. The game is otherwise known as Court Tennis in the USA, and Jeu de Paume in France.

To purists and to those who play the game it is simply "Tennis". This prefixless preference is indeed confirmed in the Gaelic form of our title.

Schedule of Responses to the 12 qualifying criteria:

1. Its core activity (sport) must come within the definitions of recreational sport or competitive sport as set out in the Act: "Competitive sport means all forms of physical activity which, through organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and at obtaining improved results in competition at all levels. Recreational sport means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or regular participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being and at forming social relationships."

Real Tennis is played recreationally and competitively by both men and women, with a notably strong participation ratio for persons of middle age and beyond.

Real Tennis has the oldest continuous World Championship (men) of any sport, dating from 1740.

2. Its aims and objectives must be focused on developing and regulating its sport.

The IRTA exists solely for the promotion of the sport of Real Tennis. To realise this objective in the Irish context, the major focus of its activity has been, of necessity, a campaign to have the State-owned court at Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin re-opened for play.

3. It must be able to satisfy the ISC that it is the sole organisation responsible for developing and regulating its sport in Ireland.

IRTA is the sole body developing and regulating the sport in Ireland.

Refer. App. (I) --- Letter 22nd July 1998, from Dept. Tourism, Sport and Recreation to Office of Public Works, confirming Tennis Ireland as NGB for Lawn Tennis.

We believe the I.S.C. may have received confirmation in the past from Tennis Ireland that Real Tennis or the IRTA are not affiliates.

The nearest international governing body for Real Tennis is the Tennis and Rackets Association, which defines its area of control in its Constitution as Great Britain.

4. It must be affiliated to the recognised international sporting federation for the sport where appropriate.

There is no International Governing Body for Real Tennis. Nevertheless established structures exist for the running of the World Championship Challenge, and international matches are held regularly.

All 5 established national governing bodies afford each other mutual recognition and all of them supported IRTA as an organisation during its planning appeals on behalf of the court at Earlsfort Tce. Samples of two are appended.

Ref. App (2)

5. It must be constituted and operating on a democratic basis.

IRTA does not have a written Constitution at this time. Its affairs are organised in an open and democratic fashion.

Its founding meeting, which amalgamated 2 pre-existing support groups took place on 15th October 1998. A General Meeting of members took place on 12th February 2000. Ref. App. (3). A further AGM will be held in 2002.

6. It must have been established as a legal entity at least three years prior to the application for recognition.

IRTA exists as an unincorporated sporting organisation at this time.

However the sample evidence below is offered as confirmation of its existence and de-facto recognition by a number of Irish national organisations for a period of more than 3 years. Ref. App. (4).

(1) Photocopy of P. 371 of Institute of Personnel Administration (IPA) Yearbook 1999.

Submissions for this publication are required by September of the previous calendar year (i.e. 1998).

(2) Cover page of letter of IRTA to Dublin Corporation of 5th Nov. 1998.

This details the evolution of IRTA at Par. 3.

(3) Letter from Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation to IRTA of 16th March 1999.

7. It must have a formal written constitution duly voted on and adopted by the membership within three years of the date of application for recognition.

This criterion will be satisfied within the specified 3 year period. Samples of the Constitutions of other national Real Tennis associations are on file for our reference in this regard, and the guidance of ISC would be welcomed.

8. It must have procedures specified in the constitution for the democratic election of all officials by the membership.

This requirement will be specified in a Constitution. I attach a page from the Minutes of our AGM of 2000 which confirms this to be the de-facto position Ref. App. (3).

9. It must demonstrate appropriate financial and management accountability.

A full statement of the financial accounts of IRTA since its inception is appended. Ref. App. (5).

10. It must comply in all material respects with the ISC's Anti-Doping Programme.

IRTA confirms its total support of the ISCís Anti-Doping Programme, and its agreement to comply with same.

11. It must have a commitment to comply with the ISC's Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children's Sport in Ireland.

IRTA confirms its commitment to the ISCís Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Childrenís Sport.

IRTA has already confirmed and submitted its policy on Non-Discrimination to the Sports Unit, Dept. Tourism, Sport and Recreation.

Ref. App. (6), photocopy of letter dated 10th Feb. 2000 with text of same and extract from IRTA AGM of 12th Feb. 2000.

12. It must satisfy the ISC that it is sufficiently developed to justify the term national in relation to its affiliated clubs, have the capacity to service its membership and be able to conduct regional and national championships in open and/or age groups as deemed appropriate for the sport.

The particular circumstances of the sport of Real Tennis in Ireland require us to request a flexible and realistic consideration by the ISC in measuring our ability to meet Criterion 12.

It must be understood that there has been no playing facility for the sport on the Irish mainland since 1939. At that time players at the court in Dublin appealed to the government to be allowed run the facility which had been bequeathed by the Earl of Iveagh. This request was denied, the court dismantled and since then the only resident players have been those who had played abroad. Nonetheless a small nucleus of enthusiasts has always existed and has been considerably enhanced in recent years by those who have seen publicity on the sport.

Please refer App. (7), which is a 3-page outline of IRTAís vision for the re-launching of the game in Ireland, hubbed around the Dublin court.

Real Tennis courts are rare in any country where the game is played, and just one court in Ireland would fairly match the international ratio to population. Courts typically exist on a membership of 150 people, supplemented by visiting players.

IRTA currently has members in all 4 Provinces. It may well be that regional clubs might form which would use the Dublin facility and indeed this situation would be encouraged by IRTA as a means of generating a level of internal competition and motivation. The third-level educational institutions in Dublin are seen as a strong potential replenishing player source.

The IRTA hopes to hold an inaugural Irish Championships in 2002, which will, of necessity, involve travel to a foreign venue.

IRTA does not claim that Real Tennis would ever be a mass-participation activity, but one which would occupy a viable and distinctive niche in Irelandís sporting spectrum.

IRTAís recognition, the re-acquisition of the Dublin court facility, and the re-launching of the game are interlinked. We would offer every hope that the Dublin court could once again host the World Championships as it did before in 1890.

I believe ISC can have confidence in IRTAís general organisational and promotional ability in growing the sport, based on our track record in saving the Dublin court from final conversion to a music venue against the most considerable odds.

App. 8 Mars Sports Show Photograph Court Diagram References

7 May, 2002: The ISC responds to the IRTA, deciding not to grant the IRTA's application. The ISC stated that the IRTA's application failed on criteria 4, 7, 10, 11, and 12. This was not the response we were expecting, so on 29 May, 2002, the IRTA wrote to the ISC requesting clarification of its decision. We heard nothing back, so on 23 July, 2002, wrote again to the ISC.

26 July, 2002: The Chief Executive of the ISC wrote to the IRTA, but did not satisfactorily explain its position. Some observations on the criteria which the ISC deemed the IRTA to have failed:

Criterion 4 (affiliation to recognised international federation): The ISC accepted in its response of 26 July, 2002, that the IRTA would not be deemed to have failed in this regard.

Criterion 7 (written constitution within three years): Here, the IRTA says it will comply and produce a Constitution within three years as required, but the ISC does not clarify, justify or rescind its failure decision in that regard in its communication of 26 July, 2002. Instead, it now states that criteria 5 (operate on a democratic basis), 6 (established for three years as a legal entity), and 7 taken as a group are the grounds for failure.

Criterion 10 (anti-doping compliance): The IRTA commits itself to to full compliance with ISC anti-doping programme, but the ISC did not respond to our questioning of, or justify in any way, its failure decision. This is inexplicable.

Criterion 11 (compliance with Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children's Sport): The IRTA again commits itself to compliance, and again the ISC did not justify its failure decision. This too is inexplicable. The IRTA has no idea how to respond in a future application to criteria 10 and 11 other than to say "yes, we will comply". But this is deemed a failure by ISC. Confused? We are.

Criterion 12 (be sufficiently developed to operate as a "national" body; hold suitable championships): In deeming the IRTA to have failed on this point, the ISC fails to see that the potential for re-launching Real Tennis in Ireland in our National court at Earlsfort Terrace hinges very much on the ISC taking some initiative in supporting our status as a sports NGB. This is a "chicken and egg" scenario and without ISC support, the IRTA is "strait-jacketed" in trying to persuade the other involved Goverment agencies to listen to our appeals to give the Irish people back their court.

8 February, 2003: The situation is discussed at the IRTA's AGM.