Reuters - Tue, 30 Mar 08:03:00 2010
The image of Britain's Lawn Tennis Association is at an all-time low according to a report produced by a group of senior politicians.
Britain's lowly standing in the sport has long been a source of embarrassment and the All-Party Parliamentary Tennis Group has spent three weeks gathering evidence to try and find out where it is all going wrong.
The three-page report sent to Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe by Baroness Billingham of Banbury, the group's chairman, did not make pleasant reading for LTA chief executive Roger Draper, still reeling from this month's humiliating Davis Cup defeat by Lithuania.
"Given the remarkable level of expenditure, in excess of £60 million pounds annually, it should be possible to deliver better outcomes than at present," the report stated.
Despite a huge budget compared to most countries, Britain only has one man and one woman in the top 100 of the rankings.
Even Andy Murray, the world number three, cannot be deemed a home-grown success as he trained in Spain as a junior.
"We feel that the LTA should address its lack of public support and build relations, not only within the sport, but with the general public as well.
"Esteem for the LTA seems to be at an all time low. As a consequence, much of the good work of the LTA tends to be overlooked."
As well as funds generated by Wimbledon, British tennis is a year into a four-year £28 million government funding package. The report questioned whether money was being spent in the right areas, namely grassroots tennis.
"We feel it is crucial that the LTA should be more transparent and accountable in the setting of their priorities and the use of their funds," it said.
"The LTA should be asked for costed plans for all of their initiatives, which should reflect priorities arrived at following meaningful consultation with everyone involved.
"It is crucial that grassroots tennis, whether involving very young players or others, that hitherto had no access to the sport, ought to be at the top of the LTA's priorities."
The LTA responded vigorously to suggestions in the report that public funding was being used to fund LTA staff bonuses.
"No public money goes into the payment of bonuses at the LTA, which are determined by strict measures of performance, and overseen by a remuneration committee of the LTA Main Board, including a non-executive member of the Board," the LTA said in a statement.