“What does Ed Warner know about tennis?” What indeed? My critique last week of the Lawn Tennis Association’s performance drew this feisty query in the Sport inc. comment section from Tom (no surname provided). It also garnered a response column in City A.M. from the LTA’s CEO, Scott Lloyd.
Both Tom (no surname provided) and Scott Lloyd both happened to quote Brit star Jack Draper’s recent public defence of the governing body’s hierarchy. Twenty-year-old Draper is currently 108th in the world and headed on an upward trajectory.
His father happens to be Roger Draper, who was himself CEO of the LTA – not without his own critics – for over seven years until 2013.
It is of course possible, when penning his response, that the LTA’s chief exec was suffering from pre-competition jitters ahead of Wimbledon – an affliction common to most of us leaders in sport. He’ll be hoping that at least a couple of Brits make it deep into the second week of The Championships, while acutely aware that his two biggest names have had less than ideal preparations because of injury.
I must though take issue with one of his points in City A.M. – namely that my citing of the LTA’s plump £171m of reserves is an overstatement as this includes non-cash items, for example its Roehampton HQ.
Such assets are there to be sweated for the benefit of tennis – could even in extremis be mortgaged or sold. But hey, let’s be generous and strip out the LTA’s £32m of property and £9m of intangibles.
Still the LTA remains very comfortably the third wealthiest governing body in Britain.
Nothing wrong with a cushy balance sheet in itself, but it certainly cranks up the performance stakes.
Anyway, back to the Pimms and my TV remote…
You can read Scott Lloyd’s response in here.
IPL The Hundred
As the England and Wales Cricket Board’s income has multiplied in recent years, its reserves have plummeted. At the start of last year they were a wafer thin £2m.
This scissoring of the two metrics reflects the struggle within cricket to keep the first class counties afloat and nurture the grassroots sport.
The ECB has pumped funds into the game in defiance of its policy of maintaining reserves at 40 per cent of turnover – which would imply £121m rather than the current £23m.
Of course, sitting on £100m-plus of reserves would invite a lambasting from outside the ECB boardroom.
The directors’ latest report says their reserves policy is under review. Best get that concluded as the current one is clearly worthless.
Cricket’s governing body can get by on its current level of reserves in part because broadcast and sponsorship monies tend to get paid in advance. At any one time, the ECB’s cash and investment pile comfortably exceeds its net assets.
If the music stops – as it did during Covid – things might get tricky. But the ECB has given itself a controversial opportunity to raise funds if needed in the way it has constructed the eight franchises that make up The Hundred. Each is a separate corporate entity. What price could they fetch in auctions to third party buyers if the competition grows roots over the next couple of years?
And would the ECB have a credible plan to use any proceeds imaginatively for the greater good of the game?
In three of the past seven years Mr Micawber would have been very miserable indeed, unless he was a recipient of one of the ECB’s disbursements.
Big sport for all
A friend in the West Midlands bemoaned only getting tickets for one event in the Commonwealth Games ballot.
Unbeknown to her, and with just four weeks to go, the Birmingham 2022 website shows tickets available for every single session of every sport – although not at every price point.
Apparently 80 per cent of the 1.5m tickets have been sold.
This is the problem with ballots. They create a sense of scarcity which can get the bulk of tickets shifted, but leave potential buyers of the residual inventory oblivious to their availability.
And this residual is critical to the final financial outcome for the event.
If you fancy big sport this summer (and if not, why ever not?), tickets are also still on offer for all sessions of the World Athletics Championships in Oregon and the multi-sport European Champs in Munich – as well as most of the matches for this year’s women’s Euros football.
Organisers of all of these events, along with the Commonwealth Games, will be hoping that they capture the public imagination in their early days, so that remaining tickets are snapped up by impulse buyers.
Might be worth checking plane and train timetables in case you think you’ll get the urge yourself – although a day trip to Perry Barr might be easier than a jaunt to Eugene for most Sport inc. readers.
Realist or defeatist?
To the idyllic Arundel Castle Cricket Ground last week for day two of South Africa women’s three-day warm-up match against England A.
The tourists’ multi-format series against England is now underway, with the Commonwealth Games T20 tournament to follow for both nations.
The entertaining day’s play at Arundel certainly gave the lie to ICC chair Greg Barclay’s negative comments about the future of women’s long-form cricket. Realist or defeatist?
Rather more of the latter, I’d say.