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Michael Downey smiling

LTA announce Michael Downey to step down as CEO


The Lawn Tennis Association has announced that Michael Downey has tendered his resignation and will leave his position as CEO in June.

Michael’s personal desire to make a return move to Canada coincides with an opportunity for him to take up the role of CEO at Tennis Canada.

Michael’s departure creates an opportunity for a new leader at an exciting time for our sport. Tennis is a great source of British pride and we are celebrating some remarkable recent achievements and head into the 2017 Australian Open supporting an enviably strong group of British players. But behind this success is the reality of a long-term decline in the number of people playing tennis, in common with many other traditional sports.

I am hugely proud of the foundations the team at the LTA have laid in order to turn participation in Britain’s beloved sport around.

In early 2013 the LTA began a major shift in mission, spending, culture and infrastructure, focusing on the long-term health of the game and getting more people playing tennis more often. When Michael joined in January 2014 he understood the urgent need to turn the sport around by addressing the sport’s foundations. Michael led the development of a new British Tennis strategy with the Board and, since 2015, has led its execution.

Over the past four years, strong foundations have been laid and early signs in monthly participation are encouraging. Key points include:

  • We have been working from the ground up, local community by local community, testing, capturing evidence of what works and rolling it out to more people and places. Over 50 new, long-term partnerships with Local Authorities have been developed to help bring tired park courts back to life and make it easier for people to access them.
  • We are sowing the seeds to inspire the stars of tomorrow. Last year over 800 coaches were re-trained to teach free Tennis for Kids courses to almost 14,000 children, between 5-8 years of age, introducing them to tennis in a fun way and helping them fall in love with the sport.
  • We are investing in places to play: the LTA and sportscotland recently announced a landmark £15 million investment to double the number of covered courts in Scotland over the next 5-10 years. This is stage one of the LTA’s new community-based tennis funding programme. The LTA will be making further announcements later in 2017 for the remainder of Great Britain. Elite level tennis remains critical as the successes of Andy Murray, Johanna Konta, Jamie Murray, Heather Watson and our British Davis Cup team continue to provide inspiration for people up and down the country to pick up a racket. The LTA now has a world-class Performance Director in recent appointment Simon Timson, who led Team GB to a record medal haul in Rio de Janeiro.

Michael Downey added: “I’ve been honoured to have led the LTA over the last three years, as we’ve sought to drive grassroots tennis. While the opportunity for me to return to Tennis Canada coincided with my personal desire to return to my home country, I am hugely proud of the foundations the team at the LTA have laid in order to turn participation in Britain’s beloved sport around. It’s an exciting time for tennis in this country and I look forward to the next six months, maintaining the momentum we’ve built in our continued mission to get more people playing tennis, more often.”

Richard Lewis, Chief Executive of The All England Club, commented: "We have enjoyed working with Michael and in particular with regard to the evolution of the grass court season leading up to The Championships. The expansion of facilities at The Queen's Club tournament and the combining of the tournaments in Eastbourne and Nottingham into both men’s and women’s tennis will provide enhanced opportunities for players to compete ahead of The Championships and make for an even more exciting build up to Wimbledon this summer. Even though Michael is unfortunately departing, we look forward to continuing to work with the major events leadership team on these important events."

David Gregson, Chairman of the LTA, said: “The progress we have made under Michael’s stewardship will continue. The centre of gravity of the LTA shifted when I joined and we will remain focused on grassroots tennis. Michael has worked hard to ensure that the British Tennis strategy to get more people playing tennis more often is embedded in the organisation and more broadly amongst the tennis community. He has put in place the right Executive team with the strengths, passion and commitment to continue delivering the strategy. While Michael’s move will be a great loss to the LTA, we respect his decision to lead the sport of tennis in his home nation, close to his family. We thank him for his hard work and dedication to tennis in Britain.”

Michael will remain in post until Wimbledon, with the search for a world-class successor now underway.

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