Sabin is given LTA role

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 yesterday.

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 £10.3m 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 £10.3m by the end of January.

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