Rocks Lane Multi Sports Centre

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Rocks Lane Multi Sports Centre's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Rocks Lane Multi Sports Centre is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Local coaches hand down the
skills acquired at Rocks Lane to
the next generation of players
Mini multi sports utilises free-flow fun games
to develop a child’s agility, balance and co-
It all started on a chilly Saturday in Yorkshire when Chris Warren
was nine years old. Having just finished playing for his school
team, he headed down to the local park with some friends.
Thrilled by the presence of six giant football pitches with full-sized
goalposts and something they had only seen on TV – nets – they
sprinted over and started playing. They were soon interrupted by
an irate groundsman and chased away. Although he didn’t realise
it at the time, that day would shape the basic philosophy behind
the development of all Rocks Lane Multi Sports Centres.
Let the children play
This childhood experience inspired me to think of setting up a sporting venture
with a distinct philosophy, one open to everyone. Thirty years ago, my wife and I
began our search for run-down, utterly neglected, antisocial local authority sports
sites. The plan was to revitalise these sites into excellent sports facilities, with sports
programmes available to everyone, prioritising children from all backgrounds.
Grit, determination and tenacity
As part of the Hammersmith and Fulham tennis coaching team in the 1980s, we
developed one of the most successful tennis development programmes in the UK.
A round of cuts, however, saw the programme disbanded. A dedicated team lost
their jobs, the site and clubhouse were abandoned, and hundreds of children were
left with their dreams in tatters.
»Managing directors: Chris
Warren and Liz Bolton
»Established in 1992
»Based in Barnes, Chiswick and
Bishops Park, Fulham
»Services: Multi-purpose
sports centres and sports
»No. of employees: 70
»Over 10,000 people playing
weekly at Rocks Lane centres
»All Rocks Lane centres are
open-access and entirely non-
Rocks Lane Multi
Sports Centres
Highlighting best practice
Following this disappointment, I was
determined to recreate this dynamic
community programme elsewhere and
make it sustainable. We located our ideal
site, Rocks Lane Barnes, and approached
Richmond borough with our plans.
To initiate the tennis programme, I
bought my dad’s car for £2,000 because
it had a big boot to store all the tennis
rackets and balls. I cleared courts of
bushes and trees and replaced the
fences and pathways, all with the
help of my dad and uncle. We used
a park bench to take tennis court/
lesson bookings, progressed to a nine-
by-ten-feet portable cabin booking
office where my wife’s daughters took
the bookings, and my mum and aunt
baked cakes and scones for the players.
We then resurfaced three courts via the
Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme,
whereby we invested £14,000 and the
government matched this figure with
a loan. After two years our community
tennis programme at Rocks Lane Barnes
was proving very popular. We realised
that we needed to provide more playing
opportunities for our players, especially
juniors who accounted for 80 per cent
of the 400 players.
Resurfacing seven existing courts,
building four new courts and
floodlighting them all would increase
participation beyond 2,000 players
per week, including a comprehensive
school support programme.
After 18 months, we had put together
a coalition of local government,
national sporting bodies and a
committee of parents. A project brief
was finalised and was presented to
the relevant LTA committee for the
much-needed funding – something we
thought would be a mere formality. To
our astonishment, our painstakingly
composed project was rejected.
We certainly weren’t going to lie down
and give up. We believed so strongly
in the project that we remortgaged
our home to raise funds and deliver
the sports facilities that the local
community deserved.
And so the idea of Rocks Lane Multi
Sports Centres was born.
Play, learn and compete
The three essential ingredients:
Play: Turn up with your mates, have
a kickaround, swing a racket, shoot
a hoop, tumble around on our soft
play areas, swing and slide in our
Learn: Children start from the age of
one in our mini multi-sport sessions,
following early years learning
principles, coupled with Montessori-
style teaching. Giving children the
opportunity to develop agility, balance
and co-ordination is an essential
foundation for them to enjoy sport for
the rest of their lives at Rocks Lane.
Compete: We offer numerous
opportunities for all children to enjoy
Friday Night Fives, for instance, is a
junior five-a-side football competition,
attracting over 2,500 children between
the ages of 5 and 16 every Friday
evening in term time.
Children also have the opportunity to
“own” the football team management
and playing experience. They pick
the team from friends, choose their
Rocks Lane provides
revitalised, open-access
and world-class tennis
facilities in the heart of
We certainly
weren’t going
to lie down
and give up.
We believed
so strongly in
the project
that we re-
our home to
raise funds
and deliver
the sports
facilities that
the local
team name, design their team kit and
manage their team online with all the
fixtures, results, form and league tables
available at a click.
Friday Night High Fives, a junior netball
event, is equally popular and attracts
around a thousand children playing
each week alongside the footballers.
Rocks Lane in the community
Open access to sport is central to our
philosophy at Rocks Lane. We link
with local schools, local authorities,
national governing bodies, local
charities, football clubs, sporting
foundations and grant-aiding bodies to
achieve this goal.
Rocks Lane Sports Trust seeks funding
to provide sporting opportunities for
all. Initiatives have included projects
for children and adults with learning
challenges, wheelchair tennis, tennis
for the deaf, adults with mental health
challenges, borough-wide school
sports initiatives, scholarship schemes
for talented youngsters, and female-
focused schemes in football, tennis and
They think it’s all over ... far
from it!
Our dream began at Rocks Lane
in Barnes nearly 30 years ago. We
inherited a run-down site with serious
antisocial behaviour and a burnt-out
pavilion. Chiswick, our second site,
was immersed in undergrowth and the
groundskeeper’s hut was occupied by
Today, we have three thriving
community sports centres. What
makes them so special? Most
importantly, each is characterised by
the warmth of its welcome. They are
genuinely friendly places. We pride
ourselves on knowing the vast majority
of our customers by name. We’ve been
around for long enough to watch our
early customers grow up, marry, have
families of their own and for their
children to take their first steps and
enjoy early years of sport with us.
Our philosophy has always been to
focus on giving our customers the
best possible experience. We want
to know if something isn’t right. We
don’t advertise, believing it is so much
more important to concentrate on our
existing customers. If they are happy,
they will tell other people.
With three sites established in London,
we are working with Wandsworth
Council to open a fourth Rocks Lane
centre in Balham.
When it comes to further expansion,
we want to share the Rocks Lane
philosophy with a broader audience
and to extend our experience and
knowledge with other partners who
share our passion for sport.
From our humble beginnings with
£14,000 of savings and a lot of hard
work from our family and staff and
invaluable local community support,
we have built a sports business for
local people that is proud to have
invested over £3.5 million in private
capital into public sports facilities over
the past 25 years, while helping many
children’s dreams come true.
Today, we
have three
sports centres.
What makes
them so
special? Most
each is
by the warmth
of its welcome
Friday Night Fives –
where sportsmanship is
rewarded and everyone
can be a winner

This article was sponsored by Rocks Lane Multi Sports Centre. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister