A bitter row at the heart of tennis took another twist yesterday, as International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty was accused of keeping silent over integrity issues that should have seen his ally Bernard Giudicelli thrown off the ITF board.
As tensions rise ahead of next week’s vote on the future of the Davis Cup, Haggerty’s handling of the Giudicelli case came under attack yesterday from Tennis Europe president Vladimir Dmitriev.
As Dmitriev concluded in his latest letter to the 50 member nations of Tennis Europe, it is “regrettable that the ITF did not inform their member nations about the integrity issue in April when it first found out about the case”.
Instead, many of the 210 member nations of the ITF were caught unawares when The Telegraph reported on July 18 that Giudicelli had been found guilty of defamation late last year – and that the ITF constitution requires any board member with a criminal record to be immediately removed from the board.
As Dmitriev makes clear in his letter, Haggerty had turned to the ITF’s lawyer Jonathan Taylor, for legal advice on the Giudicelli situation in April. Yet the other board members were informed of the situation only in July.
Even more embarrassingly, the ITF reached an agreement in late July to keep Giudicelli – who is the president of the French Tennis Federation – on the board until next week’s AGM.
The agenda for the AGM features a proposed constitutional change which would allow Giudicelli to remain on the board. Yet this special treatment clearly contradicts the constitution as it stands.
Giudicelli is valuable to Haggerty because he is a hugely important figure in the upcoming push to create a new Davis Cup model, played in one week-long “World Cup” event at the end of November each year.
Giudicelli remains the chairman of the Davis Cup committee, and has dragged France into a position of support for the radical reform, in defiance of the sceptical views held by many leading French players.
The ITF’s executives are presenting the proposal – which has been developed by the Kosmos investment group – to the member nations as the only way forward, arguing that if it is voted down next week, the existing title sponsorship deal with BNP Paribas will expire in 2021 and not be renewed.
Many of the smaller nations are receiving phone calls suggesting that the future is bleak without Kosmos.
Yet both Dmitriev and Tennis Australia have written letters in the past week pointing out that Kosmos’s promise of a $3bn investment over 25 years lacks clarity and transparency. Insiders say that the ITF made a record profit of US$11m on the Davis Cup in 2017, which undermines the more doom-laden predictions.
Surprisingly, the All England Club’s chairman Philip Brook came out a week ago in support of the Kosmos model, even though AELTC members say they were not consulted, and a small straw poll conducted by the Telegraph suggested that any proper survey would come down strongly in the opposite direction.
While the AELTC do not have a vote within the ITF’s electoral college system, the Lawn Tennis Association are one of five 12-vote nations. The other four big hitters are tied two-two in this bitter and divisive debate – France and the USA in favour, Australia and Germany against – so the outcome of ongoing board meetings at the LTA’s Roehampton headquarters this week could be crucial.
Brook’s stance has applied significant pressure in the light of the AELTC’s huge financial contribution to the LTA. But there are those on the LTA board who would rather heed Tennis Australia’s calls for patience and further consultation before any rash decisions are made.