The Lawn Tennis Association have confirmed that Scott Lloyd is to be their new chief executive. He will replace Michael Downey, the Canadian who was imported at great expense yet served only three years before deciding to return to his previous job running Tennis Canada.
However, Lloyd will not be able to start until January next year, because of pre-existing business commitments. In the meantime, he will be “dipping in and out”, according to an LTA insider, but the current executive team will continue their work.
Although the recruitment process has taken six months, Lloyd has been the frontrunner for some time. Best known for running David Lloyd Clubs, he is a 41-year-old entrepreneur who has grown up in the world of British tennis and will bring extensive knowledge of the recreational game.
The name is a famous one, for both Lloyd’s father David and his uncle John played Davis Cup tennis for Great Britain. John played in a grand-slam final, at the 1977 Australian Open, and is now a familiar voice on the BBC’s tennis coverage. David then went on to found the eponymous chain of leisure clubs that now runs 1000 tennis courts across the country.
Scott Lloyd played junior tennis to a decent standard and then began his own business career by creating a rival leisure chain – Next Generation – by the time he was 23. In 2007 he bought his father’s company back off Whitbread, and has most recently been working there as deputy chairman, while holding half-a-dozen or more other non-executive positions on company boards.
Scott’s father David has been a regular critic of the LTA. After the Davis Cup victory, he told the BBC that “The LTA do not run the game very well. They haven’t for many, many, many years. They have poor management, poor systems. Andy Murray is a great player but we have no juniors coming through. We have no system.”
These last two points are hard to argue with. The junior ranks are indeed short of eye-catching talent, while the three years of Downey’s rule failed to establish any plan for player development. First Bob Brett was appointed head of performance – a bizarre choice, given that Brett is an on-court coach who hates administration – and then Peter Keen served an interim spell before Simon Timson was recruited from UK Sport.
Downey’s main achievement in his three years has been an improvement in participation rates, which were shrinking at 13 per cent per year when he arrived and are now growing at six per cent, according to LTA figures.
But performance remains a black hole and here the real questions should be levelled at David Gregson, the LTA chairman since 2012. Gregson has overseen the repeated hiring of officials from outside British tennis and it is hard to argue that the policy has worked. Meanwhile there is still no-one on the LTA board who has any direct experience of the high-performance game. Lloyd has a major challenge to turn around this unhappy pattern.
“I am really looking forward to the challenge of taking on this fantastic job,” said Lloyd in a statement. “The current success of great British players like Andy and Jamie Murray, Johanna Konta, Gordon Reid and others, is helping inspire a whole new generation to give this great sport a go. Over the last four years, the LTA has taken huge strides in helping tennis become more accessible and encouraging many more people into the sport at a grassroots level. However, there’s still much to do to drive British Tennis forward and I can’t wait to play my part in that very important journey.”