Britain is turning to the top official in Canadian tennis to improve its fortunes on the world stage.
Michael Downey was hired as the chief executive of Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association on Tuesday, ending his nine-year tenure as president and chief executive of Tennis Canada.
Despite being extremely well funded, mainly because of the profits handed down from Wimbledon, British tennis has little top-level talent outside Andy Murray, who this year became Britain’s first men’s singles winner at the All England Club since 1936.
The 38th-ranked Laura Robson is the only Briton in the women’s top 50.
”The opportunity that Andy Murray is now a Wimbledon champion, two-time grand slam champion, is immense for tennis in Britain,” said Downey, who was formerly the regional president for Canada’s largest brewery, Molson Canada.
”Andy Murray’s biggest contribution to tennis in Britain is winning. That’s when you want to write about him, that’s when people want to follow him, that’s when kids are going to go out, pick up racquets and want to be Andy Murray. And I believe there’s a bevy of young talent that’s coming up in Great Britain that is going to follow Andy Murray to the podium.”
Downey will take up his new role on Jan. 6 as the replacement for Roger Draper, who announced in March that he was stepping down.
In 2012, the LTA invested $109 million but with little tangible reward. Murray, who has been brought through largely outside the LTA structure, is the only British man in the top 150 in the rankings.
The LTA said that Canadian tennis enjoyed significant growth at the grassroots and elite level under Downey, with more than 1.2 million people playing tennis at least twice a month.
”This sport has far more importance in Britain than in Canada,” Downey said. ”The expectation will be higher of myself in this position.”
LTA chairman David Gregson said Downey’s annual salary will be $480,000 — less than half of what Draper was earning.
”We set out to recruit a CEO with true success in business, with exceptional leadership credentials and ideally with significant knowledge of tennis,” Gregson said. ”Michael demonstrably fits the bill perfectly and was the unanimous choice of our recruitment panel.”