British tennis in decline, says LTA chief executive
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British tennis in decline, says LTA chief executive

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Michael Downey, chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), has said that the game in Britain is in decline, opining that the association needs a new approach to get young people invested in the sport.

Downey said he plans to halt the slide over the course of the next four years, adding that the fundamental problem British tennis faces is that the sport is in decline in terms of quality and numbers.

“That’s a fact a lot of people have trouble accepting but the reality is the truth,” said Downey, speaking to The Guardian. “We had nearly a million monthly players back in 2008-2009, and this year we had 694,000. On the weekly side, we’ve gone from 530,000 in 2008-09 down to 384,000. So it’s tough for us to say our sport is growing. It is not growing.”

Downey added that most tennis fans use the sport as a summer pastime and that the average age of the nation’s 2,700 tennis clubs is 45-plus.

“We think the growth is going to be in the parks,” said Downey, who wants to use a bottom-up strategy to rebuild the British game. “We need to strike long-term agreements with local authorities.”

Downey said that previously the LTA might have ignored grassroots venues such as parks and favoured tennis clubs to drive up membership: “I looked at the old blueprint. It was all about high performance,” he said. “This is about meat and potatoes.”

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Michael Downey, chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), has said that the game in Britain is in decline, opining that the association needs a new approach to get young people invested in the sport.
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