"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.
As we reflect on the challenges which face the world today, it is encouraging to find elements in sport that embrace the better aspects of man’s ability to endure nation to nation. Now, 90 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.
We are now 40 Clubs and we sit on all five continents of the world. There are only a 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 85 years. When they play each other in the UK in the week before Wimbledon 2015 this will be the 160th match! There are now many other bilateral matches building great traditions.
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 IC of the Czech Republic invite four nations every year to Prague in June.
The Council of ICs, which administers the family of International Clubs worldwide, oversees a series of collective events which different Clubs host on a regular basis, usually to celebrate an important anniversary. These include the IC Week (where men’s teams play for the Windmill Trophy and women’s teams for the Mercelis Trophy). We have other IC family events for more senior age groups: the Columbus (men), Juego de Pelota (men) and La Carreta (women) trophies.
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 objective, 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. Over the last 15 years the award has been won by: Stefan Edberg, Chris Evert, Todd Martin, Maria Bueno, Pat Rafter, Kim Clijsters, Mats Wilander, Roger Federer and Stefanie Graff. Our award is sponsored by CQS.
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 relatively 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 finals at a different venue. In 2014 this was held on the grass at the All England Club, Wimbledon. 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. The IC Junior Challenge has been sponsored by Compass for the last 10 years.
As a relatively senior institution in tennis, the notion of ‘giving back’ is important to us. Recognising that, with a network of 40 Clubs around the world, we could do more, we have launched a philanthropic programme: IC Philanthropy. We have benefitted over many years from private donors, but we are now incorporating incorporating IC Philanthropy as a charity. My predecessor, Barry Weatherill, will chair IC Philanthropy. We now host clinics at nearly all our events; and we are running major programmes in Ethiopia, South Africa, Mexico, and Uruguay with a start-up in Cambodia, as well as in disadvantaged areas of Europe (in Spain, the Netherlands and the UK). These programmes are often supported by other charities in an IC’s jurisdiction. We are affiliated to the ITF and have an MOU with them to benefit from an association with their Development Programme.
It is not possible to operate an international network without adequate income, a management structure and a professional executive. Good governance and management remains a prime ongoing objective to underpin all our activities.
To finance our activities we have been fortunate to have the support of four outstanding and loyal sponsors. Lacoste who have helped us on a continuous basis since 2005 and have always had a very close association with the IC of France; Compass who have contributed the lion’s share of the cost of the IC Junior Challenge since 2005; Banque de Luxembourg whose help allows the Council to support IC Philanthropy; and CQS who are sponsoring the IC Jean Borotra Sportsmanship Award and our efforts to promote sportrsmanship throughout our events. We are extremely grateful to these Companies for their assistance.
In the words of my predecessor, Barry Weatherill, I too am confident that:
“in the area in which the ICs aim to operate, and with the help of our 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”.
Council of International Clubs