Tennis: LTA told to cash in on Murray effect or face funding cuts
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - If they hoped Andy Murray would have a Pied Piper effect after emerging as a grand slam champion, those who run British tennis have been sorely disappointed after figures revealed the country's crumbling public courts are standing empty.
While world number three Murray's magnificent year and the rise of two young women into the top 50 has put a healthy gloss on 2012, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), so often hounded for a perceived failure to grow the sport, is under fire again.
Sport England, the government body which distributes money to grassroots sport, announced this week that the LTA was in danger of having its funding drastically reduced unless participation levels begin to rise.
"They need a stronger plan, they need the right skills to deliver it and they need to have feedback so they know what is working and change it fast if it's not working," Sport England's chief executive Jennie Price said after announcing the winners and losers in its 493 million pounds handouts.
The LTA, which also enjoys a considerable windfall from Wimbledon profits, received 24.5 million pounds from Sport England for the period 2009-13 but over the next four years the amount available to tennis will fall to 17.4 million pounds.
Of that figure 10.3 million pounds is being ring-fenced and will only be released if the LTA shows it can capitalize on Murray's U.S. Open and Olympic triumphs by enticing the country's youth to pick up a tennis racket during 2013.
Sport England figures said that the total number of people playing tennis for 30 minutes each week had dropped 10 percent since 2008 despite the millions at the disposal of the LTA through Wimbledon profits and government funding.
While acknowledging the LTA's successes over the past year, Sport England said it had to prove it was doing enough to continue growing the numbers swinging a racket. Continued...