Knocking the LTA has almost become a sport in itself. It's an easy target of course. In reality they are probably no less effective than most of the other governing bodies in this country but they do have considerably more resources at their disposal than most of their sporting colleagues, and that is the rub. Whereas their colleagues can cry poverty the LTA cannot. Criticisms of the LTA come in two main varieties.


Variety one; they just can't seem to produce champions despite their bucket loads of dosh. Even their most recent stars, Henman and Murray, cannot properly be considered products of the LTA development programmes but rather of the ambitions and machinations of their respective parents. The least said about the LTA women the better, (though we are reliably informed that there are a few right lights on the horizon).Criticism type two focuses on the LTA's elitist mentality and it is that criticism, inevitably linked to the former, which chimes the loudest. In this failing they are very definitely not alone but the LTA seems to get the lion's share of the opprobrium. In an interview in the London Evening standard 17/11/09 with Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion is scathing of the LTA. Cash remonstrates, The LTA has been wasting the money they get from Wimbledon (29.2 million this year) for so many years. It's an absolute joke the LTA have not been held accountable. Cash continues with passion, The crux of the problem is that the kids are not picking up racquets. You have to be Middle-England, middle class to play tennis in this country. It is absolutely a white middle class sport. Tennis is not alone in this respect. Offering the straightforward solution to the problem Cash declares, If you had all the kids in England picking up a racquet and going down to the local park and playing on a decent court.then there might be kids from Council areas picking up tennis. The game might reach Britain's inner cities. And there is the crux of the problem not just for tennis but for so much of sport in this country, football and boxing being the obvious exceptions. The sport I know best, the parlour derivative of tennis, has all the same problems as tennis but none of the mega bucks. Take away the heroic contributions of a handful of inner city clubs and the impressive impact of the Greenhouse Schools Table Tennis Project (TTK), and it is clear to see that table tennis has all the same endemic middle class structures as its elder brother. As for tennis and table tennis so it is, I suspect, for badminton, squash, cricket, volleyball, fencing, hockey, rowing, shooting, many branches of athletics and all the winter Olympic sports. Apologies if I have defamed your sport unfairly but I insist that with so much of English sport; it is guilty, until proven otherwise.The theory that I have long espoused is blindingly obvious; the bigger and hungrier the base the higher the pyramid will eventually become. Or, as Mr Cash bluntly puts it, Get loads and loads of kids playing and you get a freak like Andy Murray or Wayne Rooney, superb athletes.. Then feigning a joke upper class British accent Cash cruelly mocks the LTA, No, don't want to do that, that might produce too many players. It should be added that opening the doors to the whole community is only the first step and certainly not the panacea for all the ailments of English sport. As a community coach I see breath-taking raw talent in every primary school I work in. The crucial and obvious next step is in developing pathways from raw talent to international competitor but, and this is the biggest buy of all, it must be a pathway that isn't financially prohibitive. As any parent who has ever attempted to steer their child through the English system will confirm, the costs can be crippling. The further the young athlete progresses, the greater the financial pain. Unless they are picked up by a wealthy benefactor, chances are the talent from the inner cities will fall by the wayside. Even middle income families will suffer financial fatigue after a few years and may be inclined to throw in the towel. The whole sporting edifice in this country, derived as it has from the old public school system, is skewered to the wealthy and well connected. Disadvantaged youngsters need not apply.Mike Atherton, commenting on the proposed plan to make the MCC more accessible to the community, does not mince his words in describing the old mentality of Lords and all it stood for. The story of elitism in British sport is an oft told tale. In a recent article in the London Evening Standard entitled, When the walls come tumbling down, so will the class barriers, sports writer, Ivo Tennant, heralds a new dawn at the MCC. In his article he interviews Mike Atherton who is on the committee to bring the MCC walls crashing down and Atherton does not mince his words. Describing the old Lords mentality he concludes, It was exclusive, snobbish and class ridden. Yes, we can all agree on that but simply providing an architectural make-over will not bring the class walls tumbling down. The elitist mentality is far too entrenched for that. Consider, that after sixty years or more of so called egalitarian reforms, Britain is still ruled by an Oxbridge elite who themselves were schooled on the playing fields of Eton and Harrow. It's unbelievable that at the start of the 21st century, all of the key British institutions; the civil service, the military, parliament, the judiciary and the BBC are crammed full of Oxbridge graduates. They form a self perpetuating class and the few outsiders that break through confront an overwhelming force of conservatism. This same conservatism permeates the LTA, EWCB and many other governing bodies. To knock out this elitist mentality is no easy task because the people with the worst attitudes are those most firmly entrenched and as the old saying goes  urkeys don't vote for Christmas. Short of direct intervention by Sport England to restructure the governing bodies or alternatively, break-away organisations bypassing the old order, one can expect English sport to remain rooted in its elitist past.End

JPK 25/11/09Reply to; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Last Updated ( Sunday, 29 July 2018 17:31 )