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AEGON CHAMPIONSHIPS


June 12, 2013


Roger Draper

Adrian Grace


LONDON, ENGLAND

JAMES MUNRO:  Welcome.  Roger, if you want to take it from here.
ROGER DRAPER:  Good morning, everyone.  We're delighted to welcome everyone here today for some very positive news for the LTA, British tennis, Aegon, and the Aegon Championships as well.  We won't keep you too long, but we are absolutely thrilled and delighted to announce an extension of our deal with Aegon as lead partner for British tennis through to the end of 2017.  So that's another four years of the partnership between the LTA and Aegon.
Back in 2009 this was a groundbreaking partnership, not just for tennis but in sport, as well.  You know, Aegon had been very much at the heart of our work to transform British tennis over the years, and it's a real testament, I think, to their support and faith in tennis that they want to show in the next exciting stage of our journey.
Before I hand over to Aegon, I just wanted to say a few thank yous.  A big thank you obviously to Adrian but also to Richard and Ian Murray who is there at the back of the room.  From an LTA perspective, Simon Long, Lawrence Robertson and Alex Warner Smith, as well, who have done an outstanding job to make sure this deal happened.
Without any further ado, I will hand it over to Adrian.
ADRIAN GRACE:  Good morning.  We've obviously had what we believe is a fantastic five years sponsoring British tennis, being the lead partner with some what we believe are hugely positive developments.  But you don't invest in something like this for the short term.  We say when we're in the pensions industry that you've got to start investing early, investing regularly, and accrue your pensions over time.  We think that's exactly the same with tennis.
So you have to build from the grass roots and you have to build it up over time.¬† So for us, an extension of four years is just a natural commitment, a long‑term commitment to British tennis, long‑term commitment to the market. ¬†For us, we're truly excited about some of the potential that we see coming through the ranks in Britain, and we think we're coming into a golden era for British tennis, and now is the right time to support it going forward.
Hopefully Andy can continue in his positive way, and we'll get some other talents coming through as well to support it.
So, for us, we're very excited, delighted to have the partnership with the LTA, and particularly Queen's where we think it's a fantastic tournament and something that we're very, very positive and supportive of.
For us, we're delighted.  Our thanks to Roger for the time that we have worked with him, and good luck to him in his new ventures going forward.  We look forward to working with the new management of the LTA going forward.  For us, a huge, positive step.
JAMES MUNRO:  Thank you, Roger.
Any questions either for Roger, Adrian, Simon, or Richard, please ask away.

Q.  Can anyone up there tell us a ballpark figure what this might be worth?
ADRIAN GRACE:  We're not talking about the commercial deal today.

Q.  Are parts of it regarding different aspects of British tennis?  What portion, say, is going to grass as opposed to tournaments?
ADRIAN GRACE:  The deal is very similar to the one we had previously.  I mean, there are some changes to it when you look through the detail of it.  But I think overall we will be investing, continue to invest all levels of British tennis, particularly in the future stars, particularly in a lot more tournaments, and particularly in terms of things like Davis Cup.
So, for us, the important elements that we have started investing in are very much continued, and the LTA will have views on different parts of where they need to invest further going forward.

Q.  When do you think that you will talk about the commercial side of it?  Any figures?
ADRIAN GRACE:  Is there ever a good time to talk about commercials?

Q.  You did the first time, so...
ADRIAN GRACE:  I think, look, it's something from our perspective something at the moment that's confidential between us and the LTA.  We will reflect on it.
The important thing for us was there has been a commitment from both sides to get something done, and we wanted to get the timing of this to coincide with Queen's, because we did want a long‑term commitment to this tournament, which we think is a fantastic tournament, announced today.
We'll work through what we think is appropriate and when.¬† But for now, just accept there is a four‑year deal and we are very committed to it?

Q.  How much input do you have as the chief partner of British tennis in terms of policy and development, plans?
ADRIAN GRACE:  I'm a great believer that people should stick to their knitting and what they do well.  We do pensions really, really well, but don't ask me about tennis.  I'm sure the same would be, if you said the same to the LTA, they would say exactly the same.  Don't ask them about pensions.  (Laughter.)

Q. Is that to say then that you have confidence and satisfaction that every penny that you have invested has been spent wisely over the last four years?
ADRIAN GRACE:  I look at the outputs and what we've got out of it.  If you look at our brand recognition, the brand recognition that we have got in the UK as a result of this has tripled over the last period of time, which was at the center of what we wanted to really get, to get people really understanding and recognizing the Aegon brand, and importantly, pronouncing it correctly.
So, for us, we have achieved a lot of what we wanted to achieve.  I don't comment on how the LTA decide to use their funds.  That's proprietary to them and to their board to decide how they want to use it to the best of their advantage.

Q.  You're obviously aware of a lot of criticisms there have been at the LTA.  I wonder what you feel in particular about the criticisms about participation figures.
ADRIAN GRACE:  You know, for me, I come back to the answer I just gave, which is do I think that investing at the grass roots of British tennis and building the Future Stars Program is the right thing to do?  Absolutely, I do.
I can't comment on the success of British tennis overall.  What I know is what we wanted to get out of this as a partnership we have delivered in spades, and we are very proud of the association that we have.
We also think that tennis as a sport fits very well with the customer base that we're trying to reach, and that's very clear in the results that we're starting to see.
I think we have to have a line between the investment we make and then trust the people at the LTA to invest it as wisely as they can.
Do I agree with the philosophy that they put in place?  Yes, I do personally.

Q.  Does that mean it doesn't really matter how the money is invested as long as your brand recognition goes up?
ADRIAN GRACE:  I come back to I think it's horses for courses.  I think we trust, when you have a board at the LTA, which has got good strategic leadership, you have to trust in people that understand this far better than we do.
I would never believe it right to have a view on what's best for British tennis.  That's not my bag.  If you want a view who does the best workplace pensions in the UK or the best pensions in the UK, I will have a view on something like that.

Q.  When the new executive comes in, what would you say to him, in what way would you spend the money differently to the way you have spent the last four years of money?
ROGER DRAPER:  Well, it could be a "her," as well.
I think when you run any sport, there is a number of different aspects.  Clearly there is the high performance piece, which a lot gets written about, and obviously we have invested significantly in the high performance piece.
There is also the major events and the commercial piece.  And I think over the last five years we have certainly raised the bar across all of our events whether that be here, Edgbaston, Eastbourne, Nottingham, and obviously with the opportunity that the extra week in 2015 brings, that brings other opportunities.
But I think the dial for us, and participation has always been probably the most important thing for any governing body, I think the dial has certainly shifted towards participation.
Now, that comes in a number of ways.¬† Obviously we're working hard with sport and adult participation in England.¬† We had a good year last year.¬† We had the fourth biggest increase, but over a period of time, alike with other sports we were down.¬† A couple weeks ago we had some good news.¬† I think we were the only sport that actually showed any increases whatsoever in 5‑ to 10‑year‑olds playing sport and 11‑ to 15‑year‑olds.
So there was a bit of good news in terms of the sort of junior participation, and that's largely due to the fact that I think the partnership with Aegon, there is a good example of the Aegon Schools Program, we are in over half of the primary schools in the UK now and the Mini Tennis Program kicking through.
I think you could look at a number of different aspects, but I think it's really about continuity with the performance programs, continuity with the major events, and then really coming up with some new and exciting initiatives to get more people playing, whether that's Cartier tennis, paddle tennis, beach tennis, touch tennis, and so on.
And really the work we're doing with Sport England to understand how to get more people involved in our great sport is going to be I think the No. 1 priority for the next chief executive.

Q.  With all the good news that is apparently in the offing, why did you decide to go?
ROGER DRAPER:  I think the average life span of a CEO now is about 27 months, unless you're in an NHS trust and it's 11 months.  (Laughter.)
But I have done a good seven‑and‑a‑half years as chief executive, and I felt it was certainly the right time for me to move on as we sort of enter the final phase of the blueprints.
Yeah, we have a strong board at the LTA, we've got a good leadership team, and, you know, there's always things that can be done better, always mistakes that you make, but I think, you know, I think there is a lot of good things going on across British tennis and there is a real platform now to drive things on.

Q.  Apart from the Aegon's perspective, you have used the phrase "golden era," quite a big statement to make.
ADRIAN GRACE:  It's a low benchmark, though, isn't it?  Let's face it.

Q.  What do you mean?
ADRIAN GRACE:¬† Well, we haven't had a tremendous amount of success in the last 20 years.¬† When you see the talents‑‑ yeah, it's a relative game.
When you see the talent coming through like Laura, Heather, and some of the new guys coming through, and obviously Andy, this is the best we have had it for quite a while.

Q.¬† We hope it is a golden era.¬† I was just curious if you have undertaken ‑‑because you committed a large sum of money, whatever that is, if you had any independent advice or research done to find out, you know, how things are looking for the future.
ADRIAN GRACE:  We did have a look at things.  While we don't give advice because we are not equipped to give advice, we do learn a lot over a period of time in terms of what's going into the grass roots of tennis here.  And if you look at some of the junior wins that are happening on the tour, if you look at some of the women's tennis at this moment in time, if you look at obviously the first success of Andy and many more, we do think, and it is a calculated gamble, that there will be more positive times ahead.So, for us, of course we reflected on that.  The British public like winners and plucky losers, but they like winners.
The more success that British tennis has, the more people want to watch it and the more recognition we'll get as a part of it.  Clearly that factored into some of our calculations.

Q.  Is it not a concern, though, that this comes at a time of instability at the association, and when Roger is replaced, I don't think any of us know how the makeup of the top table of the organization is going to look.  And in the event of radical change being made, would that not mean a lot of money leaving the association, and that effectively would be your money?  How concerned are you about that?
ADRIAN GRACE:¬† Well, I think clearly we thought about it, and we looked long and hard.¬† We're a long‑term player.¬† We're a long‑term player in pensions, and we're a long‑term player in our business model.
We're not an overnight business.  I think the business that we bought as Aegon to come into the UK has been around since 1830, so we know the long game.
There will always be instability in organizations for periods of time, and then it will settle back down again.
I'm very confident that tennis is the right sport for us, that there is a future which is bright for British tennis, and that the current organizational changes and challenges will be dealt with over time.
I think the important thing at the moment is we help to give stability to the sport overall by signing up to this longer‑term deal, and if that in any way helps the sport move forward at an accelerated pace, then that's fantastic for British tennis.
I think, you know, we should be proud of that.

Q.  On the funding, I know you don't want to say how much it is, but does the funding come from Aegon UK?  Because I wonder what do Aegon in Holland think about you committing large amount amounts of money to British tennis?
ADRIAN GRACE:  That's a good question.  It does come from Aegon UK, but things like the Queen's tournament are broadcast across Europe, and, if we had Nalbandian incidents all the time, across the world.  So, for us, we are a global business, and clearly we talked very heavily to our Dutch parent around was this the right thing to do and how should we do it?
There was a huge amount of support from the Dutch business to support it.  I mean, if you look at this tournament, we have representatives from Aegon all over the world coming to this event, because we're very proud of it.
But we do get worldwide benefits of this type of association.¬† So, for us, yes, it's UK funded, but there is broad Aegon buy‑in to this.¬† And to be fair, we prefer sponsoring a sport rather than an individual team, because I think with a sport you can help with the progression of something; whereas when you get into sponsoring individual teams, then you do get all of the issues around allegiance to a team, which sometimes can work against you.
So from a demographic, from a profile, from a sponsoring the sport, we're absolutely committed and we think this is the right thing to do.

Q.  Are you able to say whether the new deal is worth more than the previous one?
ADRIAN GRACE:  We are not even able to say that, unfortunately.

Q.  Given the fact that Wimbledon are undergoing a huge regeneration plan, 2020 vision, et cetera, is there a suspicion that British tennis may be having to deal with slightly more austere times in the next few years than it has in the past?  The pot may not be quite as big and you're going to have to make drastic changes?
ROGER DRAPER:  Well, I think over the last five years we have always tried to sort of, you know, calibrate things effectively, because five years ago, and even the case now, our biggest source of income comes from the Championships.  But obviously our commercial income has grown, not just from the partnership with Aegon but with BNP Paribas, Highland Spring, Virgin, and so on.  Simon, Lawrence, Alex, and all the team have done a fantastic job to actually raise that income, as well.
Clearly we got a challenge at the moment with government funding through Sport England, but we're always looking at actually new sources of funding coming into the sport to mitigate some of those risks that come with interface costs at the Championships, increases in prize money, as well.
So you're quite right.  You have to cut things accordingly, and that's what we do as part of our sort of business planning process.
JAMES MUNRO:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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