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Lofty ambitions following inaugural Tennis Summit

Tennis Industry Association executive director Brett Watson has declared the inaugural Tennis Summit an “outstanding success” and has revealed plans to expand the event in 2015.

Held at the Holiday Inn on the Olympic Park in Stratford, key stakeholders in the industry met on April 9 to discuss the state of British tennis, with new Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey a guest panelist.

John Bushell, the managing director of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc, kicked off the event with a presentation titled, “Is British Tennis fighting back?” before a question and answer session with the panel, which also featured Prince CEO Mike Ballardie, TIA UK chairman Steve Matthews, SAPCA CEO Chris Trickey and Will to Win director Steve Riley.

“I was delighted that not only has the TIA UK been responsible for the UK’s first Tennis Summit but also that it was such an outstanding success,” said Watson. “All the major British Tennis stakeholders were present, the summit was packed and lively and some fascinating and original research was unveiled by John Bushell of SMS in an excellent keynote presentation.

“Our host Barry Millns did a great job keeping us to time and linking the whole event in a really professional manner. A fantastic success at a first-class venue overlooking the Olympic Park.”

Watson revealed plans to expand the event next year with focus groups in order to help the industry work together to increase the status of the sport in Britain.

“As for the future – we can only go from strength to strength,” he said. “Having proved the value of the concept of bringing all the British stakeholders together in one place we have demonstrated what can be achieved with a united British tennis community.

“Next year I look forward to an expanded Tennis Summit with the TIA UK orchestrating lively discussion on crucial topics and also managing project based focus groups which produce clear direction on where and how to move this great sport forward for the benefit of all. I believe we have started something special here.”

Collaboration and transparency were two aspects that senior members of the TIA UK board felt Downey had already brought to the LTA since arriving at Roehampton in January.

“Our meeting with Michael was a real eyeopener,” said TIA UK chairman Steve Matthews. “Michael has his views, he shared them with us; he was very transparent in how he saw the objectives of tennis in the UK but likewise he listens and he wanted to understand where our views were.

“For the first time ever a senior person at the LTA wanted and actively showed us that there was interaction. It’s early days, but from our perspective at the TIA we have welcomed what we have seen from Michael.

“I think we are all excited about the collaboration and the openness about getting British tennis where we want it to be, which is at the top of the game.”

TIA UK vice chairman Mike Ballardie echoed Matthews’ optimism.

“More than anything we wanted to have an open dialogue, there is lots of knowledge that we have as an industry that the LTA has never been interested in accessing and there is a lot of information of course that the LTA has that we would love to access,” he said. “Michael made it very clear that his intent was to make it a two-way street that we could share information and that is a dramatic change in attitude of the organization and from my point of view that was the best possible outcome.”

Ian Peacock OBE, TIA UK president and former LTA chief executive was full of praise for the man at the helm of British tennis.

“I am encouraged that in the future the industry and the governing body are going to work together, because the one great thing we have between us is we have an entirely mutual objective, which is to increase participation,” he said.

“The thought that we are going to work together in a cohesive manner and in partnership framework is very encouraging for me. “I hope [everyone] feels encouraged that we are going to turn British tennis around together, and not by going our separate ways. As someone who has sat in a similar position a few decades ago, I found Michael’s attitude and his understanding of the issues that face us very refreshing.”