POSTED: November 5th 2010

Exclusive: Roger Draper with all the sporting good news that's fit to hear

Roger Draper: firmly on-message for British sport /
Roger Draper: firmly on-message for British sport /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Roger Draper knows sport from all sides, corners and angles. He was involved as a player in rugby league’s ‘missionary effort’ to London then he quit the dressing room corridors to wander the corridors of power – notably as chief executive of Sport England for three years until 2006 when he took over the same position with the Lawn Tennis Association.

No-one better then, to tell, in the first part of an extended exclusive interview, about the pulse rate of British sport.

Where do you see sport in this country in these recessionary times?

Sport’s in a really good place. It’s big business. It’s got a very high profile, 33pc of all column inches are about sport and it’s not just the back pages, it’s the front pages, the TV networks and so on.  From where sport was in this country 10 years ago to where it is now has been a phenomenal shift.

Look back at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the Rugby World Cup win, the Ashes, Olympic bid success; then, when you look at the next 10 years, you can see the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup and the potential football World Cup on top of the usual events like Wimbledon and so on. Sport is in a very good place and will continue to grow.

Those who work in sport like to think that but what is the justification?

For one thing, sport is one of the few things to which people are emotionally committed; also it’s something that runs through people’s lives. Sport is one of the few sectors which can make people feel good or bad on a Monday morning, depending on how your team got on.

The downside is that when you are involved everyone’s got a view and everyone can do your job better than you. That’s one of the challenges we’ve always had in sport: that’s why you’re always trying to win more money from government because sport is one of the few things that can improve people’s health, can reduce crime, bring communities together and so on.

Sport and leisure has been the second-fastest growing sector of the economy over the last 10 years and it will continue to grow – which brings its own challenges because the fastest growing sector within sport itself is sports betting – and this causes its own issues as we’ve seen in cricket lately and in tennis and in football.

The more professional and commercial you become, the more challenges you face in terms of regulation and governance.

How did you adjust – moving from an ‘establishment’ body such as Sport England to a sport-specific organisation such as the LTA?

I was at Sport England for four and half years which was a half-a-billion-pound organisation, money from the Exchequer and big projects like Wembley and the Olympic bid. It gave me a good cross-section of how sport is run. We dealt with every sport from tiddlywinks right through to football and everything inbetween so I saw a big change in how those sports were evolving and developing.

It was also a very political role in a sense that I was reporting into, say, the National Audit Office. However, while it was an exiting role - dealing with some of the big infrastructure projects and the funding – I mmissed the day-to-day in-the-thick-of-it stuff: dealing with parents, coaches, players and tournaments which is really what sport’s all about.

Working in an individual sport gives you not only all those things but as well as greater accountability but also more of a buzz in trying to transform a sport like, say, tennis, where we have underperformed.

How does it feel to have outsiders assess your performance in the role on what happens over just two weeks every June and July at Wimbledon?


* Roger Draper is one of the high-profile sports leaders supporting the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust’s innovative new programme Champion Voice. This has been developed in partnership with the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) and executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

The aim is to help provide retiring sports stars with the relevant experience and skills to be utilised by sports’ national governing bodies and other sporting organisations at strategic levels. Since November 2009, 14 Olympic, Paralympic and world class athletes have participated in the programme and have now been appointed to roles across sport.

Keywords · Roger Draper · Sport England · LTA · Kelly Holmes · Champion Voice

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