The days of the Lawn Tennis Association handing out significant financial support to a wide range of British players are coming to an end.
From the start of next year the governing body will stop all cash funding to singles players over 24 and to doubles players of any age. Players aged between 17 and 24 will have to meet more stringent criteria before receiving their money.
In recent years singles players have each received up to £48,000 a year and doubles players up to £27,000 a year to pay for travel and coaching. Under the new scheme the number of players eligible for the highest level of funding is expected to drop from 16 to six. Even those who qualify for the funding – and they will need to have higher world rankings than in the past to do so – will have to repay to the LTA 20 per cent of their prize money, up to the total they receive from the governing body.
Older players and doubles players will be eligible for continued financial support under the LTA’s tournament bonus scheme, which tops up prize money won at events beneath the main men’s and women’s tours. Elite players will also continue to benefit from the scientific and medical support at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton, while LTA coaches, such as the renowned doubles expert Louis Cayer, will still be available to work with them.
The cutbacks will see the LTA’s total spending on elite players drop from £12m a year to £10m. There has been general belt-tightening at the governing body, which had been spending cash from its reserves and had more than £10m of funding from Sport England withheld this year because of a fall in the number of people playing tennis.
Wimbledon’s 40 per cent increase in prize money this summer will also eat into the annual payment the LTA receives from the tournament’s surplus. In addition the LTA will soon have to find more cash for prize money at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club. From 2015 the tournament is being upgraded from a “250” event (with 250 ranking points awarded to the winner) to a “500”, with a consequent boost in the prize fund.
Meanwhile the LTA is still working on how best to capitalise on Andy Murray’s success. Talks are continuing after LTA officials met the Murray camp in New York this summer to discuss using his image in more of their publicity campaigns.