An open letter from LTA CEO, Scott Lloyd
We haven’t done enough.
An acknowledgment of that and the need to do more, as individuals, as an organisation, as a sport and as a society is the only conclusion anyone can come to after taking the time to reflect on events in America in recent weeks and the subsequent demonstrations and conversations it has prompted around the world.
This is an issue that sits right at the heart of the vision we have for tennis in Britain – for it to be open to anyone. There is absolutely no reason that tennis cannot be a sport that can be played by all, no matter their age, gender, race, background or ability. There persists a perception in this country that tennis is a sport for the middle classes or the elite – that is not the case in other places around the world, and it doesn’t need to be the case here. When I started in this role, I wanted to bring change. I want tennis to be a sport which appeals to anyone, reaches everyone and is inclusive. My commitment to this is absolute.
Actions are needed - not just words
Words alone, however, do not cut it. We can’t just simply say that tennis is a sport that is open to anyone and expect things to change. What is needed is action to back up these words and, to that, we are committed.
In many respects, tennis has a proud history of equality. The likes of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova blazed a trail to the extent that many other sports are only now just starting to follow.
However, it is absolutely the case that any instance of racism or discriminatory behaviour within tennis cannot be tolerated. If there have been instances in the past that were not dealt with properly at the time, I know that can have a long lasting impact on those involved. That is unacceptable, and on behalf of our sport, I apologise to anyone who may have been a victim of abuse. There has to be a zero tolerance approach to discrimination of any kind, and we will be reviewing what we do to ensure we have the appropriate training, guidance and processes in place for this, and that the current and future generations of all those involved in tennis are properly supported.
We live in a society that is not equal
What we also have to realise however, and that has been at the heart of the agenda in recent weeks, is that as much as we can ensure overt instances of racism and other forms of discrimination are not tolerated, we are part of a society where things are not equal. Racism, and wider discrimination, is structurally ingrained in our society, and so the effect of racism is still very much evident and pervasive within our sport.
We are, in particular, looking at the current composition of our Board, our Council and our workforce. There was a time when we did not have enough female representation on our Board or Council, but in a relatively short period of time have put the necessary measures in place to address this, so change can happen.
The death of George Floyd and the global movement it has mobilised needs to be a turning point for us all. In terms of our sport, if tennis is to truly be a sport that is open to all, we have to acknowledge the inequalities that exist in society and put in place direct interventions to help address them.
We've made progress - but we must do more
We have taken some initial steps forward. Last year I was extremely proud when the LTA became the first organisation to commit to the Sporting Equals Charter, which aims to actively promote greater involvement in sport and physical activity among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Alongside this, we are also honoured to be an established sponsor of the annual British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards.
Our SERVES programme is proof that our sport can be for anyone, addressing economic inequalities by taking tennis to disadvantaged communities and places it has not been played before, including youth clubs, community centres, church halls, mosques and temples. It has so far seen over 30,000 young people pick up a racket, many for the first time, with three-quarters of participants from the 30% most deprived communities in the country, and over half from BAME groups.
Recognising the extra challenges that can be faced by talented players from disadvantaged backgrounds, tennis is now one of a small number of sports that have signed up to be part of Sport England’s Talent Inclusion programme pilot to help such players maximise their potential.
While I firmly believe these are things for our sport to be proud of in their own right, this brings me back to how I started this letter to acknowledge that despite this, we haven’t yet done enough.
We currently have some terrific role models in our Davis and Fed Cup teams, and on our Pro-Scholarship Programme, who can be champions of diversity, and help bring about positive change and inspire others. We want to be in a position so that in a few years’ time, the people that represent tennis both on the court and working in it will be even more diverse. Only by working together can we achieve that.
Taking time to listen to shape a better future
Many of us cannot pretend to understand what it is to experience discrimination in a way that many others do on a daily basis, and have to spend their lives fighting against it. What we can do, is to listen. We all need to challenge ourselves, whatever our role in tennis, to listen to truths which may be hard to hear, and to ask ourselves how we can be an ally to those whose experience is more negative than our own.
So, rather than rushing out the plans we have in progress around diversity and inclusion, we are going to take the time to listen more and to listen better to the views and experiences of anyone willing to share them.
We are asking you to get in touch with us via the form below to share your experiences, opinions and ideas. We will read each and every one of your responses, and what we hear we will use to shape our plans. We may also follow up with some of you to have further discussions.
It is then the commitment of myself, our Chairman, Mervyn Davies, and our President, David Rawlinson that we will put in place the actions needed to effect real change as part of our drive to open tennis up.
Scott Lloyd, CEO