Monday 1 March 2010 1:15pmMail
In "The State of Play" reporter Debbie Whitmont talks to the people at the top of the game and reveals the deals and the feuds that have divided the sport.
Tennis Australia is the body that controls the sport in this country. It runs one of the world's most successful tennis tournaments, the Australian Open. It's never been in a better financial situation but it's sidelined the nation's top male player, it refuses to employ the best coaches and it simply can't produce champions. The question is why?
In January this year Australia's top ranked female tennis player Samantha Stosur found her much anticipated match against Serena Williams dumped from the prime time television schedule. Network Seven decided news, current affairs and a soapie were more likely to provide ratings.
Tennis Australia, the body with the job of promoting the sport in Australia, didn't argue. Instead it stood to pocket a healthy bonus for Network Seven's ratings victory but the episode left a major question hanging over the sport.
Whitmont: "Do you think the people who run the game really care about it? Really care about the sport?"
Lleyton Hewitt: "Ah, I'm not sure. I don't know".
Lleyton Hewitt isn't the only one wondering whether the people who run the sport of tennis really care about the game. A virtual who's who of Australian tennis past and present are now openly questioning the way Tennis Australia has restructured the sport in this country, and who is benefiting from the changes.
The critics claim that Tennis Australia has centralised the control of the sport in an attempt to improve the game's bottom line but has forgotten about the players in the process. As one respected player manager put it:
"Tennis Australia seems to be wanting control over everything that happens in this country with regards to tennis. Any financial dealing in this country, Tennis Australia wants to have a piece of it... and that's wrong."
Tennis Australia's Director of Tennis, Craig Tiley, rejects this view:
"Right from the beginning we've been accused of being too controlling and wanting to have it only our way or the highway. Those are all just simply not true."
Despite this assurance, Four Corners has uncovered significant evidence that power has been centralised into the hands of just a few tennis administrators. According to those who know the sport, this means players are not getting the best coaches available and critics are frozen out.
The main independent coaches association has been "absorbed" into Tennis Australia. The country's "tennis bible" - Australian Tennis Magazine - has been bought out. Even the kids' tennis charity has been scuppered.
Discontent in tennis clubs around the country is increasing. One club has been told it must install a certain type of court surface or face the prospect of losing its tournament. Why is just one surface favoured and who benefits from the installation of this type of court?
The questions don't end there. This week, Four Corners explores allegations that when former tennis star and respected sports administrator, Paul McNamee, challenged for the Presidency of Tennis Australia last year, powerful figures close to the current administration told voting delegates that if McNamee won the job government funding for the country's premier tennis facility would be endangered and Channel 7's broadcast deal might be in jeopardy.
Reporter Debbie Whitmont talks to Tennis Australia about the allegations, about its blue-print for future tennis success and the results it has achieved so far.
"The State of Play" goes to air on Monday 1st March at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 2nd March at 11.35pm. It is also available online.
FOUR CORNERS CORRESPONDENCE
Mirvac Response to Four Corners | 25 February 2010
Read the response from Matthew Wallace, Mirvac CEO, to a letter from Four Corners, in relation to the Tennyson Reach development in Brisbance.
Response from Harold Mitchell Foundation | 25 February 2010
Read the email sent in response from the Harold Mitchell Foundation to questions posed by Four Corners. [PDF168Kb]
Australian Sports Commission Response to Four Corners | 11 February 2010
Read the ASC's media response to Four Corners. [PDF 166Kb]
Athlete Development Scholarship Criteria 2010 | Tennis Australia | September 2009
The Athlete Development criteria list objective components as entry requirements for the National Academy and the AIS Pro Tour Program for athletes considering a professional playing career. The Athlete Development criteria have been reviewed to remain as current as possible, reflecting the performances of today's professional players that are ranked in the top 100.
Tennis Australia's 2008-2009 Annual Report
The report will focus on TA's Strategic Priorities and provide an insight into the events held by TA including the Australian Open and Australian Open Series.
The Future of Australian Sport (Crawford Report) | November 2009
Download a copy of this report from the Independent Sport Panel.
ERASS Report 2008 The Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey is a joint initiative of the Australian Sports Commission and the state and territory government agencies responsible for sport and recreation. The ERASS collects information on the frequency, duration, nature and type of physical activities that were participated in by persons aged 15 years and over for exercise, recreation or sport during the 12 months prior to interview. Download the report.
RELATED NEWS and MEDIA
Threats made on crucial tennis vote | ABC News | 1 March 2010
New evidence relating to the conduct of last year's election for the presidency of Tennis Australia has exposed deep fault lines within the tennis community. By Mark Bannerman for Four Corners .
Australia must join Fed Cup elite: coach | SMH | 8 February 2010
Australia will have no excuses if it fails to return to the elite level of Fed Cup tennis competition, says their captain David Taylor.
Channel 7 has stifled this year's Australian Open | The Roar | 31 January 2010
Tennis in this country is dying - as evidenced by the mammoth drop in television ratings for the Australian Open that shows a 40 per cent decrease in viewers from last year.
Paying for big-name coaches is not a quick-fix solution | SMH | 31 January 2010
Following Paul McNamee's blueprint to save Australian tennis ... we asked Tennis Australia to outline theirs. Australian Open tournament director and TA's director of tennis Craig Tiley responds.
Channel 7's Australian Open coverage loses 5 million viewers | The Daily Telegraph | 28 January 2010
In a crisis for the network not the sport, Seven has shed more than four million viewers nationally, according to ratings data by leading media analyst, Steve Allen.
Seven's desertion betrays uncomfortable truth about game's standing | SMH | 27 January 2010
The Australian Open, with its record crowds, record prizemoney and record number of female players photographed patting marsupials, is an undisputed success story. However, despite the misleading statistics about year-round interest in the sport created during the game's fortnight in the sun, the Open presents only a narrow window through which a sport struggling to maintain a grip on public consciousness must flog its wares.
Tennis divided over 'World Cup' proposal | 7.30 Report | 26 January 2010
The tennis world is divided over plans to shake up the game and start a tennis 'World Cup'. Former AFL star James Hird is the man behind the concept which plans to attract more fans to the game and make more money. Hird says his vision of a 'World Cup' of tennis will help the sport, citing the success of 2020 cricket.
John Newcombe joins Tracy Bowden | 7.30 Report | 22 January 2010
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It's all above board - Tiley fires back in court surface blue | SMH | 30 December 2007
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has defended former Wimbledon champion Ashley Cooper's role on the committee that awarded a multimillion-dollar contract for new courts at Melbourne Park to a company affiliated with a business Cooper held shares in for 24 years.
Plexi courts hit by conflict claim | The Age | 30 December 2007
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It's all above board - Tiley fires back in court surface blue | Sun-Herald | 30 December 2007
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has defended former Wimbledon champion Ashley Cooper's role on the committee that awarded a multimillion-dollar contract for new courts at Melbourne Park to a company affiliated with a business Cooper held shares in for 24 years.
Sandpaper claim shrugged off | The Age | 30 December 2007
Tennis Australia this year ended its 20-year association with Rebound Ace to install Plexicushion at Melbourne Park for the Australian Open. The Sunday Age interviewed tournament director Craig Tiley about the decision.
Open blue: barbs fly over new surface | SMH | 23 December 2007
Concerns over the controversial decision to tear up the former courts and replace them with an unproven new surface is escalating, following injuries to Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic, a scathing attack from the supplier of the old courts and fears the global tournament will be played on surfaces even slower than those deemed unworthy of Melbourne Park.
Return coaching to basics or continue to ruin potential stars, says Court | SMH | 23 December 2007
Tennis great Margaret Court believes the game is "ruining" its young rising stars.
New boss plans feat of clay to remodel NSW's crumbling fortunes | SMH | 23 December 2007
The man charged with reviving tennis in NSW has turned to a world-first technology to make it happen.
Melbourne slicker than Wimbledon | The Age | 18 December 2007
Not only are the new blue Australian Open courts faster than the contentious surface they replaced, they have been measured as even quicker than Wimbledon's grass. That is the claim of the Australian Open's tournament director, Craig Tiley, who consulted widely with top players ... before selecting Plexicushion, a surface he says is quicker than Wimbledon and slightly slower than the US Open's hardcourts - the slickest of the grand slam events.
ABC Sport: Tennis
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Australian Institute of Sport
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Australian Tennis Magazine
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Return to program page: '"The State of Play"
(Footage from Australian Open final 2010)
JIM COURIER, COMMENTATOR: Once again, Roger Federer's the Australian Open champion.
DEBBIE WHITMONT, REPORTER: On the world's sporting calendar, January belongs to the Australian Open; it's broadcast to 160 countries and watched internationally by more than 300 million people.
This year, TV rights, ticket sales and sponsorship will bring in about $130 million for Tennis Australia.
PAT CASH, PAT CASH INT'L TENNIS ACADEMY / FORMER WORLD NO, 3: The business of tennis in Australia is going great. The Australian Open is a huge success; it's been fantastic.
(Roger Federer lifts trophy)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But at this year's Open, despite record crowds, not one Australian player made it past the fourth round.
LLEYTON HEWITT, FORMER WORLD NO. 1: Right at the moment it's at its lowest point I think. You know, in terms of players coming through, you know, we don't have a lot right at the moment.
(Footage of Australian supporters at the Open).
For all the flag waving, it's a long time since Australians dominated the finals here at Melbourne Park.
These days if you want to see Australians slugging it out for power and glory in the world of tennis you have to look behind the scenes.
Right now, the biggest battle is going on in the corridors of big hotels and in corporate board rooms, and that fight is every bit as dramatic and competitive as the game itself.
LIZ SMYLIE, FMR WIMBLEDON DOUBLES CHAMPION: It's all got to do with power and control. On the one hand you have the current administration of Tennis Australia, and then on the other side of the ledger you have everybody else.
CRAIG TILEY, TENNIS AUSTRALIA DIRECTOR OF TENNIS: Right from the beginning we've been accused of being too controlling and wanting to have it only our way or the highway. Those... those are all just simply not true.
SANDY ROBERTS, AUSTRALIAN OPEN MC: And now ladies and gentlemen please welcome to the microphone the president of Tennis Australia - he's had a mighty fortnight - Geoff Pollard.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Last October, Geoff Pollard was challenged for his job as President of Tennis Australia.
It was his first contested election in twenty years. On one side - Geoff Pollard and the Board of Tennis Australia.
On the other - a former world champion and Director of the Australian Open, Paul McNamee.
PAUL MCNAMEE: I was I was a little surprised by all of the... I guess the political manoeuvres that were going on.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Tonight on Four Corners - the State of Play in Australian tennis. Who should be calling the shots? And why has Tennis Australia left the so called tennis family so divided?
(On screen text: 'The State of Play', reporter: Debbie Whitmont
NICOLE PRATT: Come on guys, let's go.
(Young players walk onto the tennis court)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: It's inauguration day at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Tennis Australia has picked out these sixteen young players - aged between 16 and 20 - as future champions.
They've each been given a year's scholarship to travel to tournaments and train in Canberra.
TODD WOODBRIDGE, DAVIS CUP COACH / FMR WORD NO. 1 DOUBLES: To every one of you congratulations. It's a great honour and a great opportunity for all of you to become great players.
(To reporter) From my perspective this is probably the depth and quality of kids we've had since probably 20 years, going back to when I was here at the Institute of Sport.
(To young players) What I might like to do now is to just introduce along the line everybody that's...
DEBBIE WHITMONT: These players are at what Tennis Australia calls the pinnacle; the top of a high performance pathway based on results.
It's the brainchild of Tennis Australia's Director of Tennis, Craig Tiley.
CRAIG TILEY: It's based on performance, and I think that's the performance culture that we've instilled, you know, in the pathway and with the sport.
A player, for example, that reaches a certain international benchmark and they're tracking to a be a great player gets the highest level of funding and support.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Over the last four and a half years, Tennis Australia has spent more than $40 million to develop the young players with the best results, moving them on a pathway from its five state academies through to the Institute of Sport in Canberra.
CRAIG TILEY: I would say from a philosophical point of view it's... we've added accountability and we've added clarity to the pathway, and we've been able to resource that with an increase in... a substantial increase in our budget.
PAT CASH: There is the hot blood of tennis - worldwide tennis - in Canberra.
I'm sorry, why send... it never worked in the first place sending kids to Canberra to the AIS; it never worked, they stopped it, they tried changing it around, and then they're sending the kids back there again.
It's not going to work; it just won't work. They're centralizing everything.
(Footage of Pat Cash winning Wimbledon 1987)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: In 1987, after winning the men's singles final at Wimbledon Pat Cash famously jumped into the stands to hug his coach Ian Barclay.
(Excerpt of archive news footage)
PAT CASH: Because... I mean of all the things that have happened to me - all the ups and downs... I mean all the injuries and, you know, all the nasty things that people have said about me and everything else, you know, there was... the people up there were the only people that were supporting me, you know, through my career.
(Photo of Cash holding Wimbledon trophy)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Back in the 80s, Cash says he fought tooth and nail against going to Canberra.
He stayed for a while, then left for private coaching. He now runs his own private academy.
PAT CASH: These kids, who are the state champions and national champions, more than... more than often go backwards, because they're pulled to one coach here, one coach there; they have five or six different coaches.
They don't know what they're doing. One coach says one thing, one coach says another thing; it's very confusing.
Unfortunately there's been an era here where they've just absolutely messed up a bunch of really talented kids, and we've lost... we've lost an era of tennis players unfortunately.
At 15, Stephen Donald was a top Davis Cup junior, but about a year ago he gave up tennis to finish high school.
He'd spent four years at Tennis Australia's High Performance Academy in Melbourne. The Head Coach then was former top 20 player, Jason Stoltenberg
JASON STOLTENBERG, TENNIS COACH / FORMER WORLD NO. 19: Stephen did make it to the top ten juniors in the world.
He won back to back ITF tournaments in Europe on clay, which I think is very rare for an Australian player.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Under Stoltenberg, Stephen Donald went from the top 400 juniors to being world number nine.
STEPHEN DONALD, FORMER JUNIOR WORLD NO. 9: Well, he's been at the top so he knows what people are feeling at different stages in big matches and he knows how people can improve their game. He knows the quality of training you need to train at.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But in Stephen Donald's last junior year, Jason Stoltenberg left Tennis Australia.
After that, Stephen Donald was given three different coaches in six months. A few months later he quit tennis.
STEPHEN DONALD: Bringing in people who if they're not 100 per cent confident with the player, if they start fiddling with things and the player's not 100 per cent sure about then it's not... it's not going to be ideal.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Liz Smylie played Fed Cup for 11 years. She's been a Fed Cup Captain and a Selector.
LIZ SMYLIE: To me programs don't create players; individuals create champions. There's just not one way of doing it, and if you say, 'well this is the way, and this is the only way you're going to get funding', that's a problem.
PRUE RYAN, TENNIS COACH (directing group photo at AIS): Scrunch in really tight.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: This year, as in the past, our top young players are among the best juniors in the world.
PRUE RYAN (directing group photo at AIS): Arms around each other - can we do that.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: The problem is that despite Tennis Australia's $40 million dollars, in the last four and a half years only three players - at best - have made it as a result of the program into the top 100 as adults.
But making that transition is one of the benchmarks Tennis Australia's set for itself.
(Young players at AIS throw balls in the air)
Graeme Brimblecombe worked with Tennis Queensland until 2007.
GRAEME BRIMBLECOME, HEAD COACH LIFETIME TENNIS: When I spoke to Craig Tiley and a number of... he met with a number of the state coaches and directors of player development through that period of time, he made the comment that he would be judged by the number of players; he and us would be judged by the number of players that we transitioned into the top 100 over the next period of time.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Now, Craig Tiley is reluctant to talk about how many juniors are making it to the top as 100 adults.
CRAIG TILEY: I always get asked the question about the timetable - how long does it take to develop a champion.
And... and I remind everyone, it's the four Cs; it's courts, coaches, competitions and champions. And it's a very easy thing to remember.
LIZ SMYLIE: Craig Tiley has had the player development job for what, five years, and he keeps telling everyone to be patient.
Well, I think it might be time to reassess. I mean, I'm fair minded. I think five years is a reasonable time.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: In 2009 Pat Rafter served the first ball at Tennis Australia's newest arena.
The Queensland Tennis Centre now hosts Queensland's biggest tournament, which used to be held on the Gold Coast, and was run for ten years by Liz Smylie.
Smylie was overseas when she got a call from the CEO of Tennis Australia.
LIZ SMYLIE: He said we're about to make the announcement in two hours time that the tournament will be relocating to Brisbane, and I still was tournament director of this event.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: And that was the first you'd heard of it?
LIZ SMYLIE: That was.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: And were you offered to have any role in the new tournament?
LIZ SMYLIE: No. I don't believe in what the current administration believes; I think differently, I have an opinion.
So that's a problem, and it's a big problem. So that's it. You... you just can't have any kind of input because you're either for us or against us, and that is the culture that has been created; completely unnecessarily.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: The new Queensland Tennis Centre cost Liz Smylie her job. But for others, it was a different story.
The centre was built by Mirvac on prime riverfront land handed over by the Queensland Government.
In return, Mirvac was allowed to build 400 luxury apartments right on the water; most with price tags between $1 million and $4 million.
As soon as the plans were released, Mirvac was flooded with buyers. Now, some of the best apartments are owned by people closely associated with tennis.
GRAEME BRIMBLECOME: A senior member of the current Tennis Australia staff had come... come into our offices at that point in time and made a statement that he had bought one of the units and had made a considerable amount of money out of it overnight.
(Photos of Mirvac apartment block)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: On a prime corner there's the apartment of Steve Ayles, the commercial director of Tennis Australia, and Mirvac's Chris Freeman, who sits on the Board of Tennis Australia.
Then Ken Laffey, the President of Tennis Queensland, and Tennis Australia Board Member Ashley Cooper whose company owns two apartments.
STEVE WOOD, CEO TENNIS AUSTRALIA: Look I just know that if tennis is in your blood, you like to live by tennis courts and I think a number of people who have bought apartments in Brisbane wanted to do that because they wanted to live beside the tennis courts
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Others may see it differently, but different views aren't always welcome at Tennis Australia.
For 19 years the country's only tennis magazine - Australian Tennis - was run by Michelle Mitchie.
MICHELLE MITCHIE, FMR GROUP PUBLISHER AUST TENNIS MAGAZINE: Well, because we were the only Australian tennis magazine, we provided a voice for different views, particularly as many people were questioning the state of junior development in the game.
(Photo of Pat Rafter's publisher's letter September 2008)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: In September 2008, in his publisher's letter, Pat Rafter wrote 'currently at Tennis Australia, there is only one view and one way forward. That's it. End of story'.
It was the end. Tennis Australia pulled the magazine from its Pro shop.
And last July, Tennis Australia bought the magazine from Michelle Mitchie. Mitchie can't say why she sold because she's bound by a non disclosure agreement with Tennis Australia.
LIZ SMYLIE: What did Tennis Australia do? They bought the magazine. It wasn't because it was a great commercial investment or the magazine was making heaps of money or would go onto make a lot of money.
Had nothing to do with that. It was all about control; control over what people read.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Steve Wood says the purchase was a rescue.
STEVE WOOD: The Australian Tennis Magazine had been around for 34 years and they had had some financial difficulties that they'd made known to us, and I thought it was a magazine that has part of the history and the heritage of the game and it was time for them to provide some... us to provide some support to them and so we went ahead and purchased their assets.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: It's true that the magazine was in difficulty. That may be because about a year before its biggest advertiser, Tennis Australia, had withdrawn nearly all of its advertising.
PETER MCNAMARA, FORMER WORLD NO. 7: You know, there's seems to be two sides, and either you're in or you're out.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Peter McNamara, with Paul McNamee, was one of our most successful doubles players.
In singles, McNamara reached world number seven. He now coaches in France.
PETER MCNAMARA: We've worked over the years together to perform in Davis Cup, being the top nation in tennis for years and years.
And the reason why we were is because we work with each other and we helped each other out.
And it's very difficult for me coming back to the country and seeing the division in the sport, where we should be all working towards the same goals and forgetting about the little spins and maybe the political side of it and not just concentrating on the sport itself.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Last year some of Australia's greatest former champions asked to meet with the board of Tennis Australia.
PETER MCNAMARA: We had a meeting last year... this time last year with John Newcombe, Tony Roche, myself, Jason Stoltenberg, Pat Rafter, Mark Woodford, talking about the development of tennis and, you know, the promotion of tennis in Australia and where it was going and nothing came of it.
CRAIG TILEY: I think it's fantastic that players want to get together and meet and provide some input on... on certain things that can be developed or can be done better.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Why do they say you weren't listening then?
CRAIG TILEY: Well, I mean I'd... I'd have to ask directly those that say that, but no-one has come back to me directly and said we weren't listening.
PETER MCNAMARA: Well, the meeting was four hours and the end result was nothing.
DAVID DRYSDALE, MANAGER LLEYTON HEWITT: You've gotta pump them up; you've got to say how great a job they're doing, even if you think they're not.
You can't say a bad thing about them. This is all wrong; this is not the way you run an organisation... and some of these top players, you're never going to control them.
(Montage of Lleyton Hewitt paying)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: At 20, Lleyton Hewitt was the youngest ever world number one male player.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think, you know, we've struggled to make the transition from juniors to seniors, which is very important.
I think we emphasise junior results way too much. And if that was one thing, yeah, I was qualified for the Australian Open when I was 15, you know, in the in the seniors.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: At 16, and almost unknown, Hewitt defeated Andre Agassi and went on to win the Adelaide International.
(Excerpt from match)
COMMENTATOR: And what victory...
UMPIRE: Game, Set, Match - Hewitt.
COMMENTATOR: for the teenage sensation Lleyton Hewitt.
(End of excerpt).
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Hewitt's early mentors were some of Australia's greatest players and coaches.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I've been fortunate enough to have... you know, I've won two grand slams, I've worked with some of the best coaches in the world, whether it's Tony Roche, Jason Stoltenberg, Darren Cahill, I've had the best guys around.
And then you thrown in, you know, John Newcombe as well as Davis Cup Captain with Rochey back, you know, when I was starting out.
At the moment those guys aren't being used in Australian tennis and... and that hurts.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: What Hewitt won't say, but his supporters will, is that nor does Tennis Australia seem to want our number one male player.
JASON STOLTENBERG: Lleyton's the one thing that we've got now that's still relevant, that's... that's that all these players are aspiring to be one day.
He's got all the qualities that you would want; that we're trying to develop in these kinds of players.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Jason Stoltenberg coached Hewitt the year he won Wimbledon. He had Hewitt practising with juniors in between matches.
JASON STOLTENBERG: Lleyton just jumped at it and that's the special quality about Lleyton, other than the fact that he's a great player, is that he has a genuine interest and genuine passion for Australian tennis and that's quite rare. So, we can't lose that.
DAVID DRYSDALE: He has a passion. He wants to see the sport go somewhere; he doesn't want to be known as the last grand slam winner in Australia.
He doesn't want to be known as the last true world champion. He wants to be part of it.
He... he wanted to carry on the trad-tradition. He wants someone else to carry that tradition on from him.
JASON STOLTENBERG: He has to be utilised. He has... someone has to grab him and find a way to get him involved with our young players.
And... and if I was involved with Tennis Australia, I would be doing my upmost to make sure that happened
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But he's not inside the tent?
JASON STOLTENBERG: No, he's not inside the tent and it's... and it's... I know the discussions I've had with Tennis Australia have been very much along well why? You know.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: And what answer did you get?
JASON STOLTENBERG: I'm not involved... I'm not involved. Why is Roachy not involved and why is Lleyton not involved? They have to be involved.
And... and, you know, there are people in there that believe that they don't really probably have a lot to offer when it comes to developing players and that might be very hard to fathom, but that's... that's the reality.
CRAIG TILEY: The tent is open for everyone, and I think if it's open for employment, well when there's employment opportunities they come, well, we certainly provide that.
But, I mean I think our team is doing a magnificent job and I would love more... more input and more direct involvement from anyone.
ROB CASEY, PRESIDENT TENNIS COACHES AUSTRALIA (at meeting): There is a need for coach education to be continued in...
DEBBIE WHITMONT: For more than 50 years, most of the country's 2,000 or so coaches were represented by an association run by volunteers called Tennis Coaches Australia.
But in 2006, Tennis Australia told the coaches national president, Rob Casey, to shut down the association's website.
ROB CASEY: I received a letter. It told me that within forty eight hours I was to close down the TCA website on the Tennis Australia website.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: It was a database of your membership.
ROB CASEY: Yes. I couldn't understand, as many of the members couldn't, what the aim of it was until I thought through the process, met the people and realised that in my opinion it was all about... it was all about money.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Now Tennis Australia boasts it has 2,500 coach members.
Rob Casey says each pays Tennis Australia a membership fee of about $300, which adds up to around $750,000 a year. Then there are fees for accreditation and coach education.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Steve Wood): They've said to us they see it as Tennis Australia having taken over the Coaches Association.
STEVE WOOD: Look, I disagree with that. It's all about helping them to help our end customers, and that's really what we're about.
We want to get the tennis players who are out there interested in the game. If they're already playing, we want them to play more. If they're not playing we want them to play for the first time.
The coach is critical in delivering that; they're the sales force of Tennis Australia.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Recently, Tennis Australia has moved beyond coaches to managing players. So far it's taken on six young players.
PAUL MCNAMEE: The problem with the sporting federation being in player management is there's a potential conflict of interest.
Do I give a wild card to someone that we manage? Do we give money to the player... the people that we manage, and what the perception of that is?
There's always going to be the perception that those that are being managed have advantages, even if it's not true.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: One of the players managed by Tennis Australia is 16 year old Jason Kubler.
He's the fourth ranked junior in the world. This year Kubler was given a wild card to the Australian Open.
GRAEME BRIMBLECOME: He's had wild cards. He's certainly a very, very talented individual and I think the world of him as a player.
But it may not be in his best interests at this point in time to not have to earn the right to be in those positions.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Kubler was beaten in three sets at the Open, but if he'd won Tennis Australia would have taken a cut of his prize money, and playing gets players' publicity.
GRAEME BRIMBLECOME: If that got him on the front page, he may be able to get other corporate sponsors as a result of that. Tennis Australia may be in a position to take a cut of those as well.
So there are there are certainly significant conflicts for player management with a national organisation that may not be in the best interests of the player or the sport in general.
CRAIG TILEY: There's no there's no conflict of interest, unless first of all... if you let it be a conflict there's a conflict.
But there's no conflict of interest with the player if there's an opportunity which is going to really maximise the player's opportunity.
DAVID DRYSDALE: If you go back five or six years ago it was... Tennis Australia was very much a service organisation that was there to promote tennis and grow tennis to the clubs and the associations, and there was a need for more business expertise; no-one would ever question that.
However, what's happened, it's almost like a pendulum swing. It's gone from here is a service organisation - bang - right over here, trying to be a Fortune 500 company.
And it's like... all it is now - it's about making money, and the health of the sport is being jeopardised.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Whatever the state of the sport, the business of the Australian Open couldn't be healthier.
In 2008, Tennis Australia rebranded the Open, changing the surface it was played on from green to true blue.
STEVE WOOD: That was critical to us as the Australian Open and for the brand of the Australian Open, and more importantly that whole decision was driven by our broadcasters.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But putting in the new surface - called Plexicushion - was expensive, and outside Tennis Australia at least, it was controversial.
PAT CASH: I don't like the balls and I don't like the surface, but that's just me.
GRAHAM CHARLTON, CLUB CAPTAIN TRARALGON TENNIS ASSOC: I am a tennis professional. I'm supposed to be an expert. I've been involved in the game for long... 40 years plus and, yeah definitely, I find it very glary.
PAUL MCNAMEE: From the late 1970s and through the 80s, Paul McNamee won 24 men's doubles titles, including Wimbledon and two Australia Opens.
After he retired as a player, he ran the Australian Open for 12 years - till 2006 - just before the decision to change the surface.
PAUL MCNAMEE: What happened out of that change was this fixation that we now have a national surface - Plexicushion - that's our national surface.
And this... with the blue colour, and that clubs and centres around Australia should aspire to having this surface, when pretty much everyone knows it's not a surface for player development.
It helps certainly, but 90 per cent of the top men and women in the world grow up on clay.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But Plexicushion also raised questions about another former Wimbledon champion. In the 1950s Ashley Cooper was a world number one player.
(Archive footage of Cooper Ashley competing).
Now, Cooper is on the Board of Tennis Australia and he sat on the committee that gave the multimillion dollar contract to Plexicushion.
What's more, Cooper had previously been a director of the company that distributed the new surface and his former partner was still at the company.
(To Steve Wood): Was it appropriate for Ashley Cooper to be on that sub-committee?
STEVE WOOD: Absolutely. Ashley... first of all, Ashley hasn't been involved in that company for at least seven years.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But it's fair to say one of the directors that's there was there when he was there, so he's got some ongoing contact with the company.
STEVE WOOD: Maybe so, but Ashley... I don't know if you've ever met Ashley but you couldn't find a guy with higher integrity than Ashley Cooper and in terms...
DEBBIE WHITMONT: It's a matter of perception though, isn't it?
STEVE WOOD: In terms of experience, I mean, Ashley has probably the most experience in Australia for the building of tennis courts.
We would be doing ourself a disservice if we didn't involve him given his experience, and in the end he was, you know, very helpful in helping us make the right decision.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: That decision spread Plexicusion all over Australia.
For the last 18 years, Traralgon in Victoria has hosted an international junior's tournament.
It's a lead in event to the Australian Open, and every year it brings Traralgon about $750,000 in business.
Three years ago, the Traralgon courts were upgraded, but they're Plexipave, not Plexicushion.
Now, Tennis Australia has told Traralgon, that if it wants to keep the juniors tournament, it'll have upgrade again to Plexicushion.
CRAIG GRUMLEY, PRESIDENT TRARALGON TENNIS ASSOC: We're going to need some significant help with funding to resurface the courts. The club certainly can't do it by itself.
We're working with the Latrobe City Council to see what sort of solution we can come up with, and our major sponsors.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Craig Tiley): If they aren't able to resurface the courts would you take that tournament away from them?
CRAIG TILEY: Well, I think we would first talk with the local council and talk with the club and see what's best for tennis in the community.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Does... would that include possibly losing the tournament?
CRAIG TILEY: I couldn't... there's, you know, there's a long list of things that have to be considered with that.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Traralgon may get help under a rebate scheme. Over the last two years Tennis Australia's paid out nearly $7 million for new courts and new surfaces.
But those courts and surfaces have cost more than $130 million. So clubs and councils have had to fund the difference.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (To Craig Grumley): How much money would you have to raise?
CRAIG GRUMLEY: Ah, to do the 14 is about $500,000, so we would be depending on what grants and rebates are available federally and through Tennis Australia.
The club... the club could have to raise in excess of $350,000.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Graham Charlton is the Club's coach.
GRAEME CHARLTON: It's a lot of money... It's a lot of money, and what people... and we talk about the community - that money comes out of the community.
CRAIG TILEY: Well, we're giving the club an opportunity to choose and that's what the rebate scheme is.
And the... the one thing great about the rebate scheme is the choice; no-one has to do anything.
And we have a pool of funding which we provide. We do it in partnership with the local council and in partnership with the tennis club.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: It doesn't sound like that, to be honest. I mean they've been told that they either have to resurface or they'll lose the tournament.
The council is being asked to dig in and provide $350,000. This isn't about choice. Aren't you holding a gun to their head?
CRAIG TILEY: It's a choice that Traralgon want to host an event and ah...
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But they've been hosting it for 18 years.
CRAIG TILEY: Correct, and there's other events that they can host as well if they choose to go down a path of hosting other events.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Steve Wood claims a Tennis Australia survey showed players wanted the new surface, but he agrees Tennis Australia will benefit too.
STEVE WOOD: We've laid over 760 odd of those types of courts. We sell that paint, that colour - the Australian Open colour - throughout Asia, throughout the world.
We've got people around the world buying that true blue colour that we enjoy and we've created.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Craig Grumley): What will it mean for the town if you lose this tournament?
CRAIG GRUMLEY: Ah, it'll have a significant impact economically for Latrobe City, to the tune of about $750,000 per annum.
It'll have a significant impact on the club and the morale of the people in the club and the committee and everyone that's been associated with the club over the last thirty odd years and been involved in the tournament.
GRAHAM CHARLTON: We have kids here that dream and they dream to win the Australian Open. You know, they dream to be a tennis professional; they dream to maybe play in this tournament one day.
(Archive footage of a young Lleyton Hewitt playing)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Twenty years ago, a young Lleyton Hewitt dreamed of playing for Australia.
LLEYTON HEWITT: For me the pinnacle was always to be playing Davis Cup for Australia and that's something that got... you know, when I got 14, 15 years old and Nuke and Rochey invited me to be the orange boy at Davis Cup.
So, you know, that kind of stuff gave me goose bumps and, you know, just one day I wanted to wear the green and gold and be out there playing for my country.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: By the time he was 22, Hewitt had won more Davis Cup singles matches than any other Australian.
But despite that, in 2007 Australia lost its place in the main Davis Cup world group.
LLEYTON HEWITT: In Australia at the moment it is struggling - there's no doubt about it. But for me it's very lonely out there playing on the tour and not having a lot of guys to... just to, not only talk to in the locker room and bounce ideas off, but also go out there to bat for in Davis Cup ties as well.
And... and for me it's not a lot of fun playing the, you know, the zone or qualifying ties in Davis Cup.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: One of Lleyton Hewitt's earliest coaches was Roger Tyzzer. Tyzzer worked with Tennis Australia in the 90s.
ROGER TYZZER, TENNIS DIRECTOR RACV ROYAL PINES: If I was at the top of the tree now, I would be panicking, because I don't think they have enough intimate knowledge of what's coming up in the future.
LLEYTON HEWITT: The frustrating thing is for me, that we're looking at guys ranked 250 to 400 in the world, possibly getting a gold jacket to play Davis Cup.
And... and that's scrapping the barrel. You know, we've really got to try and make a change; we've got to get a whole... try and pull through a couple of guys and let others come up with them, and the best way comes back to the coaching.
TODD WOODBRIDGE (to AIS players): To all the athletes coming in - to the boys and the girls - congratulations on making it in to the AIS.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Last year, Tennis Australia brought in former doubles champion, Todd Woodbridge, as Head of Men's Tennis and Australia's Davis Cup coach.
TODD WOODBRIDGE: Now, I've got on board because I believe there is a pathway. There's a pathway with the National Academies that feed into the Australian Institute of Sport; that feed into the AIS / Davis Cup Squad; that feed into the Davis Cup team.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Todd Woodbridge has put together an Institute of Sport and Davis Cup Squad.
TODD WOODBRIDGE: You need to know who you're going to pick and who's going to be there. So, the squad that... that I've put together is to have travelling coaches around the world that support those kids.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: So can you just tell me who those players are and...?
TODD WOODBRIDGE: Ah yes, they're... they are, um Matthew, Ebden, Klein, Millman and... Ebden, Klein Millman... who am I missing (pause).
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Todd Woodbridge has a number of jobs.
As well as being Head of Men's Tennis and Davis Cup coach, over summer Woodbridge does ads for a car company and commentary for Channel Seven.
ROGER TYZZER: It's a huge role to... to be a national figure and you need to have a handle on every level of tennis and what's going on; it's a massive role.
I couldn't imagine our national soccer coach going to the World Cup and commentating another game in the World Cup.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Todd Woodbridge): I mean you can see why people say the job you're doing already is absolutely enormous and yet somehow they ponder as to where you've still got time in your schedule to take two weeks and spend it essentially working for Channel 7?
TODD WOODBRIDGE: I'm working for the sport, not for Channel 7.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: You don't see it as working for Channel 7?
TODD WOODBRIDGE: No, I'm working for the sport.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Aren't you paid by Channel 7?
TODD WOODBRIDGE: I'm working for the sport though; I'm driving the sport.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But you are actually employed by Channel 7?
TODD WOODBRIDGE: At that period, but I'm working for the sport, I'm driving the sport, I'm spokesperson for the sport.
(Excerpt from Channel 7 Australian Open coverage)
ALEX CULLEN, PRESENTER: Welcome back to Melbourne park, where Sam Stosur's just begun the match of her life against world number one Serena Williams.
(End of excerpt)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But the problem is, what's good for channel seven, isn't always so good for tennis.
DAVID DRYSDALE: It's about money, money, money, money. And you only have to look at the TV rights of Channel 7 - the coverage was pathetic for the average punter. And yet the rights were the most money ever made.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: At this year's Open, the highest ranking Australian player was the women's number 13, Sam Stosur.
Her fourth round match came on the eve of Australia Day. The problem was it was scheduled third in the day.
About nine minutes after the match began Channel 7 left it - in Sydney and Melbourne - for the 6pm news. Then, there was this program on Today Tonight.
(Excerpt from Today Tonight 25 January 2010)
TODAY TONIGHT PRESENTER: But other top ranking females are making headlines out of their bottom lines.
TODAY TONIGHT REPORTER: One of the big talking point during the week has been whether she's wearing any underwear, and of course she is.
(End of excerpt)
DEBBIE WHITMONT: By the time Seven returned to the tennis, Stosur had lost in straight sets.
NICOLE PRATT, AIS COACH / FMR WORLD NO. 18 DOUBLES: Well, I think it's bad for women's tennis, I really do. I mean, the fact is, you know, we have the highest Australian ranked player being female - Sam Stosur - and she's not on TV and that is a loss for everyone.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: The problem could have been avoided by scheduling the Stosur match earlier.
But the CEO of Tennis Australia, Steve Wood, says the match wasn't seen live for another reason - global broadcast business.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Steve Wood): So do you think it would have been better to have put the Stosur match second in the day?
STEVE WOOD: What would have been better to put the match second in the day if our objective was to make sure it had got on TV live.
Our objective was to run the grand slam for the benefit of our global broadcast business, which is a huge revenue stream for us and something that we must respect and must understand that we are a global sport on the global stage.
DAVID DRYSDALE: So all this extra money that's being made, they're saying it's going back into tennis, but where is it going into tennis?
We don't seem to be servicing the sport, we don't seem to be growing and promoting the sport.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: In Tennis clubs and voluntary associations across Australia, the dissatisfaction with Tennis Australia is growing.
Dean Williams is the President of Tennis West, representing 190 tennis clubs in Western Australia.
DEAN WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT TENNIS WEST: Participation levels have been dropping since 2001. Membership levels are dropping. We haven't got a great player base.
Tennis clubs used to be a real hub for the community, a lot of kids, a lot of creches, a lot of activity, parties, etc. We should be restoring that, and they're a vital... they're a vital part to the community.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: It's a view shared by the Director of the Hopman Cup, Paul McNamee.
PAUL MCNAMEE: We're not a corporation with shareholders. We're a non-for profit organisation with stakeholders, which is the broader tennis community.
So the interests of the tennis community, community need to come first and foremost.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Last September at the US Open McNamee had sounded out our number one male player.
LLEYTON HEWITT: We've got to try and change things and, you know, I spoke to Paul McNamee; had a good conversation at the US Open and we were hoping to... to hopefully be able to make that change.
And I think he was going to be a lot more open to listening to a lot of different people as well about making that change and hopefully speaking to the people that have been there and done that, because at the end of the day, the people that really know and the people I think that have the interest of the game at heart is the people that have been there and done that.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: In October, when Geoff Pollard's term as President of Tennis Australia came up for its, usually automatic, renewal, Paul McNamee challenged him.
Electing the President is one of the few key powers still held by the state tennis associations. McNamee was nominated by Dean Williams. The response, and the salvo of lobbying, surprised Williams.
DEAN WILLIAMS: Very much surprised, yeah. It wasn't a very welcoming response. People looked at it as that it shouldn't have happened.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: The first shot was fired by tennis legend John Newcombe, who went to school with Geoff Pollard.
Newcombe wrote to the states saying the 'current campaign' was the 'wrong way' to change the Presidency.
The next came from Russell Caplan, chairman of the board of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust, of which Geoff Pollard is also a member.
(On screen graphic of email)
Caplan wrote to a board member of Tennis Australia expressing his 'concern' that with the 'presidency uncertain', negotiations over the multimillion dollar redevelopment of Melbourne Park and the tennis centre may hit 'a major delay'.
That email found its way to Tennis Victoria with a request to 'reconsider' their decision to vote for McNamee.
It was a clear message that voting for McNamee would risk the multimillion dollar project.
According to Geoff Pollard, the fact that the board pressured states to vote for him isn't a problem.
GEOFF POLLARD, PRESIDENT TENNIS AUSTRALIA: It doesn't worry me. The views of Tennis Australia are just probably indicating to them... other than me saying this is the board's view; it's a board member saying it's the board's view.
That's... probably makes it a bit clearer than just having me say it, cause I had a vested interest I suppose
DEBBIE WHITMONT: When Tennis Victoria didn't budge, it was Dean Williams who came under pressure.
Williams and his 2IC had flown in from Perth for the vote. On the night before it, Williams was approached by a Tennis Australia board member.
DEAN WILLIAMS: One of the board members, Mr. Harold Mitchell, came up and said he wanted to have a chat to me.
And I said... I'd never met... I'd never met the man at all. So I introduced myself and he wanted to have a chat out in the corridor.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Harold Mitchell is Australia's largest media buyer, and he negotiated Tennis Australia's deal with Channel Seven.
Mitchell told Williams a vote for McNamee would have serious implications.
DEAN WILLIAMS: Well, he said basically, you realise you're putting the whole project into jeopardy with regards to the Channel 7 TV rights.
Which is, they've just signed a new five year deal with Channel 7 and it's a lot more money than the previous five years.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: What did you think of that statement?
DEAN WILLIAMS: I just thought it was totally inappropriate, to put it mildly.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Nor was it true.
STEVE WOOD: Well, you'd like to think when a deal's done, it's done, and we did sign off the deal with Channel Seven nearly two years ago now.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: So why would that have been said if it did happen? It was a threat, wasn't it?
STEVE WOOD: Well, I don't know if that's been said or not, but... and I can't comment on whether that has gone on.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: The next morning, Geoff Pollard won another year as President - by nine votes to seven.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Peter McNamara): Why do you think there is such opposition toward Paul McNamee becoming involved in Tennis Australia?
PETER MCNAMARA: Because he's the only threat; He's the only threat they have. There's no other threat. There's no one out there that can... that has the credibility.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: In January, Paul McNamee's challenge to Tennis Australia claimed its first casualty.
For the last 17 years McNamee has chaired a charity he founded for under privileged kids. It's called Kids Tennis Foundation, and its President is Eric Campbell.
ERIC CAMPBELL, PRESIDENT KIDS TENNIS FOUNDATION: So we have coaches going into underprivileged schools. We were able to set up a net, um in the school grounds and posts - the whole works - paint out a court, and the kids just loved it.
And they just felt good about themselves. It builds their self-esteem, being able to learn something they might not have otherwise been able to learn.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But this year, when Eric Campbell opened the Australian Open program, he was surprised to find Tennis Australia had set up its own charity - the Australian Tennis Foundation, which said it too would help underprivileged children.
(To Eric Campbell): And had Tennis Australia contacted you to tell you this was coming about?
ERIC CAMPBELL: No, not at all, no.
DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Geoff Pollard): Why would you want to set up a charity that covers exactly the same areas...?
GEOFF POLLARD: No, it covers a much wider....
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Yes, but including some of the same areas as the Kids Tennis Foundation. Why would you set up a foundation that covers all of that if you intended the Kids Tennis Foundation to continue to exist?
GEOFF POLLARD: The foundation will cover everything. Whether they actually do anything in that area because the other foundation exists is up to the trustees of the... of the foundation.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: But it's clear from a letter written by Pollard to the Kids Tennis Foundation that the real problem was that Paul McNamee had been publicly critical of Tennis Australia.
(To Geoff Pollard): What did you mean by that?
GEOFF POLLARD: What did I mean by that? Exactly what it... as exactly what it says. You... your chairman has been out criticising everything Tennis Australia does at the same time we're your sponsor; that to me is very strange.
ERIC CAMPBELL: If you're not prepared to accept criticism, if you're not prepared to accept alternate points of view, if you're not prepared to debate, argue, discuss, agree to disagree, whatever it might be, I can't see how you can go forward. We can't live in a bubble.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Next month, the states will vote again on the Presidency of Tennis Australia. There's much at stake - not just the sport's heritage, but its future. McNamee and several others have flagged their interest.
DAVID DRYSDALE: There's a lot of proud passionate people that have been involved in tennis for many, many years.
They've made a living out of the game, sure. But they've given a lot back; a lot more than what they would've earnt.
Those people are slowly being pushed out, and if that happens, the whole structure of the sport, the whole feeling of the sport will just fall apart.
DEBBIE WHITMONT: Do you think that's happening already to some extent?
DAVID DRYSDALE: Unfortunately I think it is.
[End of transcript]
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