When Brett Watson was appointed to the role of Executive Director of the Tennis Industry Association it signalled a new era for the TIA’s place in the fabric of British Tennis. Although the TIA has existed since 1998, it has never had a paid employee solely focused on bringing the tennis industry together.
A three-year agreement signed with the LTA gave the organisation the financial base from which to create the role. It was May 2012; the London Olympics were just around the corner, creating another piece of British tennis history with the Olympic tennis at the All England Club and Paralympic tennis at Eton Manor.
Fast forward 27 months and as Watson steps down from the role, his achievements show how much the organisation has benefited from an executive who worked hard to enhance the reputation and respect of the industry’s association. His departure comes after the Lawn Tennis Association, under new leadership, has chosen to terminate the partnering agreement with the TIA.
Along with his fellow board members, Watson steered the organisation through one of the toughest economic recessions, balancing the books and leaves the TIA with more members than in 2012.
Watson cites a revolution in communications, events and preferred supplier programmes as three of his key achievements. The first ever Tennis Summit, held at the Olympic Park in April 2014, saw over 60 stakeholders coming together to discuss the issues affecting the industry. Panelists, headed by new LTA CEO Michael Downey, contributed to a lively debate about the future of the sport in the UK. Feedback from delegates at the inaugural summit suggests this is an event that deserves a permanent place in the tennis industry calendar.
TIA UK News is read by major figures in all areas of the industry and it was Watson who grasped digital media as a cost-efficient and engaging way for a member association to communicate with its audience, when print, while desirable, was no longer the most economical way. Commenting on TIA UK News Watson said, “The "click-through rate", which is widely regarded as an excellent measure of reader engagement, has approached a remarkable 40%”.
The organisation’s preferred supplier programme has been expanded to include companies like Action Coach, Newby Crouch, Travel Leads, BLM LLP, Perkins Slade and Conference Co-ordination, all of which offer members significant benefits and services at discounted rates.
While Watson spearheaded the changes, he acknowledges that none of the reforms would have been possible without the support of the board, headed by chairman Steve Matthews, as well as president Ian Peacock.
“The TIA can boast one of the strongest boards in sport with representatives that have experience in the leading companies, governing bodies and organisations within tennis,” he said. “It is a truly powerful mix to offer our members and the wider tennis community”.
Watson will hand over the reins on a part-time contractual basis to Phil Sandilands, managing director of TrioPlus Tennis. While Watson hopes, new commitments permitting, that he will continue to be involved in some way with the TIA, he leaves Sandilands with the new Court Member Category and the re-launch of the TIA’s stringing courses to continue the momentum created from his 27 months at the helm.
Commenting on his time as Executive Director, Watson said: “I think that in the modern, well-connected world in which we operate, an organisation’s reputation is vitally important and I would like to think that over the last 27 months the reputation of the TIA, and the respect which we have earned, has changed beyond all recognition.”
Peacock said: “During Brett’s time at the TIA UK, he has made a very positive contribution – enhancing the image, increasing membership, improved membership benefits and implementing strict budgetary controls which has meant that in a year of severe financial pressure we have been able to trade with only a nominal loss.”
“I hope to use my leadership and senior management experience to remain in sport, and preferably tennis, and if I have the opportunity to remain associated with the TIA UK and its work in the future I would be delighted to do so,” said Watson.
Watson officially leaves his post on July 31, 2014.