Police ready to investigate historic sex abuse claims against West Hampstead tennis coach

Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club. Picture: Google Street View.

Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club. Picture: Google Street View. - Credit: Archant

An elite tennis club says it “co-operated fully” with police over shocking allegations that a former head coach molested young players in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club

Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club - Credit: Archant

Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club, only recently rocked by an unrelated voting scandal for the election of officers, has gone as far as removing former coach Bill Blake’s name from its clubhouse after former pupils made startling abuse allegations and the police became involved.

Mr Blake, who died 20 years ago, was highly-regarded at the West Hampstead club and was associated with it for over 50 years.

After becoming head trainer, he had contact with male and female players of all ages at the club in Alvanley Gardens.

His time there had seen him coach Wimbledon winners, including British doubles champion Angela Buxton, and he regularly trained with some of the best players in the world, including Swedish legend Björn Borg.

Now his name has been virtually stripped from Cumberland’s history and a spokesman said the club had made strenuous efforts to “address the re-naming of any awards, charitable funds, coaching squads etc., in any way associated with Bill Blake”.

The allegations surfaced late in 2012 when the Met Police received claims that “a male employee at a sports club in Camden [borough] had abused a child in the 1960s.”

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Six weeks later the club itself reported receiving an allegation that a man had been abused as a child by the same suspect.

The Ham&High understands that one of the victims contacted the NSPCC anonymously while another complained directly to the club.

The police investigation was initially shelved when it was discovered that Mr Blake had died 20 years ago but this week both the Metropolitan Police and the NSPCC urged any potential further victims to come forward, with officers vowing to “investigate all”.

A Met spokesman said: “We would encourage any victim of abuse to come forward and report the matter to police via the non-emergency number 101.

“In case of emergency call 999. Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111; the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000; or NAPAC on 0800 085 3330.”

At the time of the allegations the club wrote to members stating: “Cumberland LTC has received two complaints/allegations from previous members who received tennis/squash lessons from a coach who worked at the club during the 1960s and 1970s, named Bill Blake.

“The club is co-operating fully with the police in every regard. It takes matters concerning the safety and wellbeing of all its members extremely seriously and follows robust procedures in this regard.”

The club said it had worked with police to look at how they could “widen the search” for other potential victims.

Last month the club was involved in an unrelated high-profile controversy when it was alleged that child members had been pressurised into voting for certain members during the annual election of officers.