Pay & Play introduced as a trial
For the first time ever Pen-y-ffordd Tennis Club is allowing non-members to rent available court time via the online booking system and associated payment facility.
So-called "Pay & Play" is encouraged by the LTA as it allows new people to access tennis without making a long-term commitment to membership, the hope being that they'll get the tennis bug and want to play more, when membership becomes far more cost effective.
Every year the club receives enquiries from members of the public as to whether they may book a court for an hour or so and the answer has always had to be no - we're an un-staffed site where our main gate is usually locked with a combination padlock whose number is only given to members. There are electronic systems available, which work in conjunction with the ClubSpark booking system, and they allow a temporary code to be provided to Pay & Play customers to gain access. The LTA will potentially provide grants to cover the upfront costs for these systems, however the ongoing costs are prohibitively high such that our club would be lucky to break even on an annual basis.
The global pandemic, however, has resulted in a situation where, in order to reduce touch points, our main gate padlock is not being used, and this has provided an opportunity to introduce Pay & Play on a trial basis. Given that we've not committed to an expensive electronic gate access system we're in a position where, should things not work out for any reason, Pay & Play could be withdrawn at any time.
We're also able to tweak the Pay & Play offering - it's initially being introduced with all time slots available at a cost of £3.75 per half hour with a minimum booking period of 1 hour and a maximum of 2 hours, however this could be restricted so that, for example, Thursday evenings are made unavailable to Pay & Play customers. A key restriction already in place is that Pay & Play bookings have been set up so they can only be made on the current day or the following day whereas members can book up to 7 days in advance, meaning members have significant priority and, for the most part, Pay & Play customers will be using courts that would otherwise have lain empty.
It's also been noted that with our courts unlocked the best way to ensure people don't wander in and use the club's facilities without contributing is to make them busy enough such that non-paying visitors will be asked to leave by those there legitimately (it's fair to say that even with the padlock we're only marginally protected from non-paying walk-ons where some courts are empty), and some who may have tried to play for free will likely welcome a Pay & Play option that allows them to use use the club legitimately as casual players.
We'll be monitoring to see how Pay & Play and goes in the coming weeks and months. If any members have any comments please feel free to get in touch via the website.