Roger Draper to leave role as LTA chief in September

LTA chief Draper to stand down in September after seven years at the helm

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

15:50 GMT, 13 March 2013

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UPDATED:

17:49 GMT, 13 March 2013

Roger Draper will depart the Lawn Tennis Association in September a wealthy man, leaving the leadership role of a sport that is still massively short of realising its potential at elite level or in terms of growing grass-roots participation.

The key to his departure, officially dressed up as a resignation, goes back several months with two significant factors: the arrival of a new independent Chairman at the LTA and the revelation for the first time of Draper’s extraordinary 640,000 salary and bonus package, that caused consternation both in tennis and British sport in general.

At the beginning of January David Gregson, a highly successful businessman whose public roles also include being a Director of the Olympic Legacy Board, was brought in from the outside to provide a sharper edge to the organisation’s governance.

On his way: Roger Draper will leave his role with the LTA in Septermber

On his way: Roger Draper will leave his role with the LTA in Septermber

He made it his first priority to
assess the position of Draper, who since his arrival in 2006 has been a
polarising figure in the British game and overseen a huge turnover in
staff but not a reduction in numbers, with a staggering 315 now
employed.

His many critics – and even a few
supporters – were stunned when December’s accounts showed that he was
paid a basic salary of 400,000, plus a pension contribution of 40,000
and, most controversially of all, a bonus of just over 200,000.

It was subsequently explained by LTA
President Peter Bretherton that this was for meeting certain targets.
Yet participation in recent years has flatlined overall and the rankings
of professional players have also been broadly been stagnant, bar the
exceptions of Andy Murray, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, none of whom
could be termed products of a repeatedly failed centralised system.

Active: Draper playing with Lord Rothermere at the LTA Tennis Centre

Active: Draper playing with Lord Rothermere at the LTA Tennis Centre

The reason for Draper’s remuneration
becoming public was a technical change to the corporate status of the
organisation which meant, for the first time, that the pay of the
highest earning director needed to be published.

The wheels of change in British
tennis usually turn painfully slowly but Gregson, who made his fortune
in the private equity business, has moved uncommonly fast in bringing
about the change of leadership, which will happen in September.

I understand there was a gathering of the LTA’s main board directors last week at which his future was discussed and he will be paid up until the expiry of his contract,
which was at the end of this year. It is also believed there was concern
from Wimbledon, which pumps its annual profits that exceed 30 million
into the British game, about what was happening at an organisation whose
annual salary costs under Draper have shot to more than 15 million.

Success: Andy Murray became a grand slam winner during Draper's time

Success: Andy Murray became a grand slam winner during Draper's time

Draper can take some credit for the
LTA’s commercial and sponsorship operation being considerably enhanced
over his tenure, and for bringing more of a certain energy to the place.
There have been some encouraging junior results but these have yet to
come close to any broader upswing in the performances at elite level.
Britain’s men’s number two, James Ward is ranked 209. The policy of
employing high profile and expensive foreign coaches brought no results
has been completely reversed.

Grass roots participation has been
level at best despite the huge funding from Wimbledon and government,
and the corrosive sense of ‘them and us’ between people in and outside
the LTA system is probably worse than ever.

But make no mistake, while there will
be many applicants for the Chief Executive’s position at a rich and
high-profile organisation, in a sport with so much potential for growth,
it is a very difficult job. The issues facing British tennis are deep
rooted, and the faint hearted should not apply.

Progress The British women's game, led by Laura Robson, has also improved

Progress The British women's game, led by Laura Robson, has also improved