LTS bullish over British tennis as end of Murray Era looms – Football News

LTS bullish over British tennis as end of Murray Era looms

The LTA says the likes of Katie Boulter can sustain interest in British tennis after Andy Murray retires

Andy Murray may be on his lap of honour but, as the grass-court season cranks up a notch at Queen’s Club this week, the Lawn Tennis Association is feeling bullish about British tennis. 

The sport’s national governing body can point to the handful of players in the upper reaches of both the men’s and women’s world rankings, encouraging participation numbers and record revenue of more than £100m last year.

“British tennis is probably in the best shape it has ever been, in terms of players inside the top 100 but more importantly, the number of people actually playing,” LTA head of commercial partnerships Gary Stewart tells City A.M.

The LTA is the chief beneficiary of Wimbledon, which contributed £49.3m of its £108.5m total revenue in 2023. But it is keen to make itself less dependent on the Grand Slam and, to that end, has changed its sponsorship strategy under Stewart. 

It is focusing on forging more meaningful partnerships with brands, he says. The result has been growth in commercial income from £2m to £9m, new deals with Lexus and Brita, as well as renewals with Castore, Dunlop, Nyetimber and Crew Clothing.

Now it has gone to market with some prime inventory: title sponsorship of its pre-Wimbledon event at Queen’s Club in west London, which will gain a women’s tournament and run across two weeks from next summer.

The LTA is seeking £4m-£5m a year for a minimum of three seasons from a brand to replace online car marketplace Cinch as main partner of the tournament and says it has already had talks with around 20 potential backers.

It will hold further discussions at Queen’s this week but favours a global brand – one of the reasons that it just signed a broadcast deal with the Tennis Channel which should give the British grass-court season more visibility internationally.

“The stars have aligned and we are really excited to deliver a first-class event for the ladies, the first time in over 50 years that this level of tournament has been in London,” says Stewart. 

“It’s really exciting for the brand that we work with, that part of that narrative and that story about bringing world-class tennis back to London, at the iconic Queen’s Club.

“We don’t just want someone who’s just going to give us the money to a brand new event. We really do want to work with that partner to get the best from the relationship.”

Murray has been a great servant to the LTA and British tennis, the governing body says
Murray has been a great servant to the LTA and British tennis, the governing body says

The LTA wants to build out a “summer of tennis” product, which could also include “maybe renaming some of those events” in Nottingham and elsewhere.

Murray’s advancing years and looming retirement has dented Britain’s success at Grand Slam level but Stewart insists neither that nor the end of a golden era of men’s tennis will have a major bearing on the LTA’s coffers.

“They keep our sport on the back pages and people talking about the game – Andy has been an unbelievable servant to the sport and to us as an organisation,” he says.

“But equally Jack Draper, Emma Raducanu, Hannah Klugman [15], Isabel Lacy [17], Henry Searle [18], some of the younger guys coming through. They’re the next group that are coming up. Katie Boulter, Harriet Dart, Jodie Burrage – I could go on.”

One source of commercial income is unlikely to be Saudi Arabia, despite its rapid escalation of investment in tennis, which has included deals with both the men’s and women’s tours and the creation of new events in the Gulf.

The LTA is seeking a new main partner for its event at Queen's Club, which will add a women's draw next year
The LTA is seeking a new main partner for its event at Queen’s Club, which will add a women’s draw next year

The LTA this year rejected a proposal brought from its sovereign wealth fund the PIF to include the Queen’s event in a multi-tournament sponsorship deal with the ATP Tour, but has not ruled out working with Saudi partners in future.

“We turned down some money a number of months ago. The board has made a very firm stance on that. Equally we need to be aware of what’s going on in the market and we need to be open to talking to people,” says Stewart.

“At the moment we’re talking to everybody, [but] I think it would be a very difficult position for us bearing in mind we’ve already made that stance [when PIF] came to us wanting to invest in Queens. Life moves on, things change and I can’t say never, but at the moment we’re not in the conversation.”

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