LTA announce new chief executive

Mike Downey joins from Tennis Canada

The Lawn Tennis Association has named Mike Downey as its new chief executive.

Downey moves from Tennis Canada, where he has been president for the last nine years.

As successor to outgoing chief executive Roger Draper, Downey inherits one of the toughest jobs in British sport after years of criticism over the organisation's failure to make the most of its annual multi-million pound Wimbledon subsidy.

Draper leaves the LTA at the end of this month after more than seven years and Downey will begin his role on January 6, 2014. During the interim period Nick Humby, the LTA chief operating officer, will lead the executive.

Downey said: "This is a huge privilege for me, at a fantastic time for British tennis.

"We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us, and it is an honour to be able to lead the work of the LTA in getting more people playing tennis."

Some questions will be asked about the non-British appointment, but LTA chairman David Gregson described Downey as the outstanding candidate for the role.

Gregson added: "We set out to recruit a CEO with true success in business, with exceptional leadership credentials and ideally with significant knowledge of tennis.

"Michael demonstrably fits the bill perfectly and was the unanimous choice of our recruitment panel."

Downey faces a tough task turning round the perception of the LTA and will not wish to make the same mistakes as Draper, who began the job in high-profile fashion in 2006 after replacing John Crowther.

Draper announced an overhaul of the wild-card system which granted British players automatic entry into major tournaments, and spent large sums appointing top-level coaches like Paul Annacone and Brad Gilbert.

But the policies saw only gradual improvement and were soon scrapped, with Baroness Billingham, chair of the All Party Tennis Group, branding the LTA's lack of success a "disgrace" earlier this year.

Downey will however inherit an organisation with a much more forward-looking commercial sector as well as signs of steady improvement in the world ranking lists.

The success of Britain's women certainly improved during Draper's reign with Laura Robson and Heather Watson both now firmly ensconced in the world's top 100 and Johanna Konta on the brink of joining them.

But the double grand slam-winning exploits of Andy Murray - who rose almost entirely outside the LTA structure - will not placate those who point out the second best British man is still ranked a lowly 157 in the world.

PA

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