July 2, 2015 / 9:23 AM / 4 years ago

Spanish federation chief to step down amid probe

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish tennis federation (RFET) president Jose Luis Escanuela opted to stand down on Thursday, one day after he was suspended for failing to cooperate in a probe into the organization’s finances.

Spain's new Davis Cup captain, former women's Tour player Gala Leon (R) walks next to Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET) president Jose Luis Escanuela before attending a news conference in the Andalusian capital of Seville September 23, 2014. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

The decision, announced in a statement published in sports daily Marca, comes after Spain’s disciplinary committee for sports (TAD) suspended Escanuela indefinitely over what the government sports council (CSD) called “a complete lack of collaboration” on requests for information.

Escanuela was replaced later on Thursday by Fernando Fernandez-Ladreda, an RFET vice president who is a professor of accounting and a politician for Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) in the local administration in Oviedo.

“I have taken on the role today of president of the Spanish tennis federation and without doubt my first objective will be to restore institutional and sporting normality,” Fernandez-Ladreda said.

“I ask for the help and cooperation of everyone to get us out of the current difficult situation, always following the goal of maintaining Spanish tennis as one of the top reference points of our sport at the international level,” he added.

The CSD also clashed with Escanuela, who took over in 2010, over the appointment last year of Gala Leon as Spain’s first female Davis Cup captain, a decision which alienated top players such as Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer.

Nadal, Ferrer and 42 other high-profile figures in Spanish tennis this week issued a statement that hit out at poor organization and a lack of transparency at the RFET.

Leon, who had a career-high ranking of 27 as a player, was a surprise choice to replace Carlos Moya, who stood down after the five-times Davis Cup winners were relegated from the World Group following defeat against Brazil in a playoff.

It is unclear whether any of Spain’s top-ranked players will commit to playing in this month’s Group I second-round tie away to Russia.

Escanuela said Leon would still be in charge for the July 17-19 match in Vladivostok despite his decision to quit.

“I will formalize this decision (to stand down) and it will become effective on July 19, as soon as the tie against Russia, led by Gala Leon, is over,” Escanuela wrote.

The CSD says it is attempting to track down what happened to at least 700,000 euros ($774,690) the federation paid out in transactions linked to the Spanish Tennis Foundation and the Spanish Tennis Observatory.

($1 = 0.9036 euros)

Reporting by Iain Rogers; Editing by John O'Brien and Clare Lovell

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