Tennis coach 'distraught' at losing Belsize role amid club row
- Credit: Damian Nzekwu
A tennis coach claims he was forced out of a Belsize Park club after a row over court fees.
Members of the Globe have come to loggerheads after two coaches were replaced following the election of a new committee late last year.
The pair, Damian Nzekwu and Gaddo Guidotti, lost their work during the coronavirus lockdown due to a dispute over how much they should pay the club to use its courts.
A significant minority of members from the approximate 400-strong club in Haverstock Hill have written to the Lawn Tennis Association to explore a possible legal challenge over the move.
They claim that the moving on of Gaddo and Damian, who spent 21 years at the club, amounts to unfair dismissal.
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But the Globe’s match secretary, who is on the committee, said that the club’s new coach is paying more to use the facilities and spending greater time on-court for members.
The Belsize club is run by volunteers. Damian and Gaddo were not employed by the Globe but paid a set £9,000 per year to use the courts under the banner of the London Tennis Academy.
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To extend their contract at the club, it was proposed that this fee increased and that the coaches pay a proportion of their gross revenue to the club.
No agreement was found, and Damian told the Ham&High he was “distraught” to lose his livelihood of 21 years at the club, where he spent virtually his whole week.
“It's been awful, depressing,” the 42-year-old said. “It's affected my family life with my partner and it's affected my kids because I've been having to try to deal with this and save my job. We've done nothing but good for the club.”
In 2019 Damian played his part in helping save the Globe when the club won a longstanding battle to extend its lease.
The coach added: “I feel it's been a bit heartless how they've (the new committee) behaved.
“There's been no care and no empathy for the fact we've worked there for so long and we've given so much to the club.”
Anna Lee, who spent 26 years as president of the Globe, said she was "surprised" and "disappointed" at the loss of longstanding coaches.
“They are talented coaches who contributed much to the tennis life of the club and indeed to the survival of the Globe LTC during the lease negotiations with Camden Council,” Anna said.
“Sadly no proper discussion or consultation was offered to members who had doubts, or questioned the committee’s decision.
“It’s a golden opportunity missed to reach a harmonious solution in the true spirit and ethos of the good old Globe.”
Globe member Dr Simon Commander described the pair as “marvellous” coaches and credits to the local community.
“We cannot tolerate the termination of the contract with our coaches without cause and the misrepresentation of the services they provided to our club,” Dr Commander said.
“The Globe's current committee had no right to break the contract without ever referring the reasons or the decision properly to the membership.
“They have wilfully destroyed a key part of the fabric of our club.”
A current member, who asked not to be named, said Damian and Gaddo boosted female participation, supported the visually impaired, and provided work opportunities for youngsters. They added the coaches were integral to the club meeting its key performance indicators.
In response, James Vogl, who spoke in a personal capacity as match secretary of the Globe, said the club has a long history of inclusion, diversity and fairness.
“Our new coach has a higher grade of Lawn Tennis Association qualification than Gaddo or Damian, is paying the club more for the use of its courts than Gaddo or Damian proposed in any offer during exclusive renegotiations and will be providing more time on court coaching members,” James said.
“The committee felt this was a better offering both qualitatively and quantitatively, for the overall membership, than Gaddo or Damian could or would be willing to supply, and was approved at an SGM by two thirds of the membership.”
James said he wished Gaddo and Damian the best for the future.
The Globe Tennis Club was contacted for comment.