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LTA chief responds to Andy Murray criticism with invitation to collaborate

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Michael Downey, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) chief executive, has encouraged players to collaborate and express their views on the game, following criticism from Andy Murray.

The world No.2 used the aftermath of Great Britain’s Davis Cup win – its first in 79 years – to voice his frustrations at the association and the lack of emerging players capable of matching his success.

Downey, who joined the LTA in January 2014, responded to the criticism by offering Murray, and his fellow professionals, the opportunity to “work collaboratively” to ensure a bright future for British tennis.

In a statement issued by the governing body, Downey said the Davis Cup win was “an incredible sporting achievement” and should represent “a chance for the nation to celebrate” and “inspire people to pick up a racket and get on court”.

“We value the opinions of all our players on how we grow the game in Britain and our door is always open to Andy [Murray], Dan [Evans], Dom [Inglot], James [Ward], Jamie [Murray] and Kyle [Edmund] to hear their views and work collaboratively with them and all of our partners,” he added.

Murray’s criticisms, which included the fact that he had only spoken to Downey once since his appointment, as well as the decision to stop using the £40m ($60.1m, €56.8m) National Training Facility in Roehampton, were echoed by former Davis Cup captain John Lloyd who told ESPN that “the LTA has gone backwards under Downey”.

“After Roger Draper left as chief executive, people were saying that he had made mistakes in various places, and that with the new guy here was a chance to change things,” said Lloyd. “But this just seems to happen over and over again.”

During an interview with Sports Management earlier this year, Downey stressed that his new four-year strategy – which will see the LTA plough £26m into participation – would take time, pointing at falling participation rates.

“Looking at the [Sport England] figures it’s obvious that tennis isn’t currently a growing sport in the UK,” he said. “It hasn’t been growing for years and we’ve got to accept that it’s going to take time to turn it around. No business can turn fast if it’s suffering from a long term decline.”

Downey’s vision, which is the LTA’s first new strategic plan in six years, puts clubs and parks at the centre of increasing participation. Downey’s nine-year stint at previous employer Tennis Canada saw grassroots participation grow by 3 per cent in each year since 2008, with 1.2m Canadians playing regularly.

Read the full Michael Downey interview with Sports Management here.

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Michael Downey, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) chief executive, has encouraged players to collaborate and express their views on the game, following criticism from Andy Murray.
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