British tennis chief Roger Draper shrugs off criticism


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The Independent Online

British tennis chief Roger Draper insists he will take recent criticism on the chin after claiming the Lawn Tennis Association are “an easy target” for people to “have a bit of a pop at”.

Draper is currently under pressure after it was announced last week Sport England have cut their funding by £530,000 in the wake of disappointing adult participation figures.

Those statistics, which showed the number of adults playing at least once a week has dropped by almost 30% in two years, compound disappointing results on the court, with Great Britain suffering defeat at the hands of Belgium in the Davis Cup last weekend.

However, Draper insists there are in fact reasons for optimism, with figures showing a rise in the number of competitive juniors as well as an increase in club membership.

LTA chief executive Draper, who assumed the role in 2006, claims the long-term plans remain on track.

He told Press Association Sport: "Rugby union, rugby league and cricket all took a cut in funding as well.

"People like having a bit of a pop at the LTA. We're quite an easy target but we've just got to keep focused on the things we can control and keep working hard to try to improve the sport. There's so many good things going on in British tennis."

He added: "The highs in sport are very high and the lows are very low.

"In my sort of job we've had quite a good year and my name has not really been mentioned much, when things are going well, and of course as soon as there's a bit of bad news, everyone wants to sack Roger Draper again.

"We're six years into a 10-year change programme in the sport, there are lots of positive things going on and you've got to keep your perspective but continue to roll your sleeves up.

"It's part of the journey in the sport. Whether it's football, rugby, cricket, tennis, everyone goes through their bumpy patches.

"I suppose the positive thing (about criticism) is that it takes heat away from everyone else and they can get on with working hard across British tennis.

"But you are a human being so of course it affects you when you see your name in the newspapers and everyone saying 'sack Roger Draper' and so on. So yes, it does affect you, but I'm really motivated and focused on helping to grow British tennis. I wouldn't be doing this job if I wasn't.

"It comes with the territory. When I was chief executive of Sport England we had similar issues with building Wembley, the Olympic bid and lots of different challenges. That comes with being chief executive and running a big business like British tennis."

Draper, in Birmingham today to launch the AEGON Classic at the Edgbaston Priory club, has welcomed the appointment of former colleague Richard Lewis as chief executive of the All England Club.

"It's great to have Richard back in tennis," he said. "He's a tennis man through and through.

"He was a great player but he's also a really good leader and manager and I'm sure we'll carry on that good working relationship now he is CEO at the All England Club.

"Everyone in British tennis and at the LTA is really pleased with the news."