LTA role a huge privilege - Sabin

The Bolton News: Cathie Sabin is the first female president of the LTA Cathie Sabin is the first female president of the LTA

Cathie Sabin has admitted she doubted whether a woman would ever become president of the Lawn Tennis Association, let alone assume the role herself.

Sabin was confirmed as the LTA's first female figurehead in its 125-year history at the governing body's AGM on Wednesday.

The 66-year-old former deputy head and PE teacher, who mentored the likes of Michael Owen and Sol Campbell, will aim to use her appointment to help open new avenues in tennis for young women.

Sport England will release its latest Active People Survey (APS) figures on Thursday, charting the participation numbers in tennis across the country.

The LTA will hope to hit the 450,000-mark to claim back the £10.3million funding for the next three years that Sport England withheld after the last set of figures.

Sabin is focused on righting the wrongs of the last year, as the LTA pledged to invest renewed efforts in boosting the numbers of weekly tennis players across the country.

She said: "I don't think many people out there ever thought it would happen.

"It's a huge privilege and I think at this time when we are trying to raise the profile of women and girls in sport, not just tennis, I think it's a great opportunity.

"It's one of our big roles to increase participation from women and girls, if they can see someone who's actually got there who is female, but not via an elite player route, the volunteer route, I think it's a huge message.

"I think the image of the LTA, people need to be fair about what we've done, and acknowledge the good things we've done.

"We'll put our hands up to what we haven't done, and work on getting those better.

"But I don't think there is enough acknowledgement for the good things that have happened."

Sabin retired nearly nine years ago, from her post at Idsall School in Shropshire.

She taught PE to the FA's Lilleshall School of Excellence pupils, including future England internationals Owen, Campbell and Jermain Defoe.

Independent chairman David Gregson said the LTA now has an "immeasurably better" chance of boosting the number of tennis players across the country than 12 months ago.

The LTA will make a presentation to Sport England on Thursday, December 19 on its renewed "participation strategy".

Gregson and chief operating officer Nick Humby expect a decision on that withheld £10.3million by the end of January.

He said: "I can't say what Thursday will bring (the Sport England APS figures), but I feel very good about what the future holds.

"We are in immeasurably better shape than we were a year ago to deliver a participation strategy across the country.

"That is a very, very long-term game. If it was easy, people would have done it a long time ago."

Humby said LTA bosses have worked closely with Sport England to solve the problems of the last year.

He said: "We've been working with them closely over the last 12 months, working on a strategy to secure that money.

"We'll be presenting to them next Thursday, telling them what progress we've made in the year and what more we've still to do.

"They have a board meeting on January 21, so by the end of January we will know their views on what progress we've made.

"That money was held back against us demonstrating to them that we have changed our approach to getting more people playing more often."

The LTA's turnover dropped from £60.2million in 2012 to £58.4million in 2013, but its investment in participation schemes, in association with the Tennis Foundation, rose by 10 per cent to £19.4m, following an 11 per cent increase in 2012.

Humby said the £55million raised from the sale of the All England Ground Company back to the All England Tennis Club will be invested straight back into legacy projects.

That money will be paid in annual instalments, showing an £8.1m boost in the 2013 figures.

Humby said the LTA will determine those projects in January after the arrival of new chief executive Michael Downey, who arrives from Tennis Canada.

Humby said: "We haven't defined what those projects are yet, but we're working hard on that and early next year we'll review that with Michael and we'll publish a view about where that should be invested."

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