Attacking the LTA during the Wimbledon fortnight is almost as much fun as the tennis itself. It's near on impossible to resist. Faced with all that privilege and middle class, self satisfied smugness oozing from our TV screens, no self respecting journalist or self styled blogger should remain silent. I've just re-read my own blog on the LTA entitled, 'LTA Mediocrity', written nearly two years ago, and to be honest I wouldn't change a single word. In the past two years nothing has changed.

Anna Kessel, writing in the Sunday Observer 26/6/11 certainly scored a well directed ace against the perpetually under-performing LTA in her highly revealing article, 'Britain's own Williams Sisters lost to France'. Admittedly, the LTA is not the only hapless, incompetent National Governing Body on the circuit but their giant annual income makes them fair game along with that other bastion of incompetence; the English Football Association. And Kessel certainly doesn't spare their blushes. To have this article circulating in the national press crash-bang in the middle of Wimbledon ought to result in a few heads rolling. But it won't. It will be a shrug of the shoulders, a few limp words of explanation, some back-slapping about the success of the Wimbledon fortnight, a reminder of how well their juniors are coming along, and then back to the old routines. Admittedly, Wimbledon as a show case for world tennis could not be better, but as a showcase of the LTA million pound development programme, it is a never-ending, unmitigated disaster. 

 

Kessel gets to work from the very first lines. Try bettering this for sporting journalism:

 

It was a decade ago that Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, warned the Lawn Tennis Association that unless they started looking in the ghettos they would never break free of the narrow-minded elitism that, he felt, prevented tennis from progressing in the country.

 

Kessel then poses the obvious and largely rhetorical question:

 

Ten years on, with only Andy Murray left to represent the nation going into the second week of Wimbledon, is Britain any closer to unearthing its own Williams sisters?

 

No prizes for guessing the correct answer. But the really interesting/depressing thing is that there are great young talents out there in all sports, including as it transpires, in tennis, but the LTA just can't seem to get its act together. Two such hopefuls have turned up - two sisters aged nine and ten, but due to lukewarm LTA support they are picking up sticks and heading to France. Just listen to what the dad has to say on the matter;

 

If you go to tournaments, if you go to camps, the nationals, what you see is a circle, they've got their own people and if you don't know no one they put you on the side. Look at where Serena came from. Go to Brixton, go to Hackney, give them a chance, you'll find players.

 

No surprise to learn that these two talented youngsters are children of colour. No accusations are directly made but the obvious conclusions are there for all to draw.

 

The mother is equally forthright;

 

The LTA have got a lot of money but last time they gave just £300 for one year. This pays for maybe two rackets then the money is already gone. I know one girl, she received £5,000 because her mother knows somebody working in the LTA. It's not fair.

 

No, it's not fair, but this sort of closed-circle mentality is the norm in British middle class sport rather than an unfortunate exception. The girls themselves, young as they are, are just as eloquently damning as their parents when it comes to the LTA:

 

In France when we do tournaments they take care of you. Me and my sister are invited and we have lots of friends there. When I started playing tennis in England I didn't have that many friends, but people here are really open and friendly. The Federation pays for us, so our parents don't have to pay. When we do tournaments in England they don't really take us. The system is better in France. In France we learn more in training. Each session we focus on one thing and it's much better to learn.

 

Out of the mouths of babes. The girl's names are Marley and Lea Manga and I'm sure there are plenty more just like them out there. If they are white, wealthy and middle class they may have an outside chance. Otherwise they might as well start packing their bags for the continent right now.

 

End JPK Copyright 30/6/11

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 May 2018 08:16 )