Philippine Tennis: ITF intervention a step in the right direction

Date Published: November 21, 2017

Date Published: NOVEMBER 08, 2017 Amid the continuing issues plaguing the Philippine Tennis Association (PHILTA) and its officials, the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation intervened last week. A letter was sent last week directing the PHILTA to restructure its organisation and address the lack of tournaments and sponsors. The intervention, spearheaded by ITF president David Haggerty, should come as no surprise considering the current state of the PHILTA.

The ITF’s demands

Haggerty expressed the ITF’s disappointment about the PHILTA’s lack of progress in developing Philippine tennis, particularly the absolute failure to invest in the development of its future players. In the directive sent to the Philippine Olympic Committee, the ITF demanded that the PHILTA submit reports regarding its accomplishments for the last three years. Information required by the ITF included the number of tournaments organised, number of coached training sessions, number of training camps, and a list of international competitions that the Philippines participated in. Moreover, the ITF is also demanding the PHILTA submit a list of its current members, qualifications and criteria for membership and a clear plan of action for how PHILTA intends to expand its membership. This intervention came after the PHILTA experienced two contentious elections in the first half of this year that led to the withdrawal of its top backers including the Cebuana Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop.

A controversial election

Cebuana Lhuillier President and CEO Jean Henri Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop owner Bobby Castro took a big step in pulling out as PHILTA’s age-group tournaments’ sponsors after years of backing up the association. The reason was the fallout from a controversial election within the PHILTA. Following the divisive re-election of Salvador Andrada as president and the decision to make former PHILTA secretary-general Romeo Magat vice president, Lhuillier and Castro officially withdrew from their support of the PHILTA claiming they “can no longer give support to an association that is mismanaged by two people”. To make matters worse, the speedy elections which were carried out by a seven-man board, were unsanctioned by both the ITF and the POC. In an attempt to address the issue, the PHILTA called for another election in June but once again failed to gain support from the ITF and POC. Lhuillier and Castro again questioning the legitimacy of the results which saw Antonio Cablitas was declared winner president.

ITF supports Lhuillier and Castro’s withdrawal and announced that it does recognise Cablitas as PHILTA president. The ITF still consider Olivarez as the head of the association after calling for the troubled organisation to clean up their act and avoid facing possible consequences by amending its constitution and by-laws before any new elections take place. Non-compliance could lead the association in suspension.

Philippine tennis moving forward

Former PHILTA board member Randy Villanueva, who alongside with Lhuillier and former president Junito Villanueva, and Gerard Maronilla walked out in the February elections, praised the decision of the ITF to intervene in the PHILTA. Although Cebuana Lhuillier and the Palawan Pawnshop have withdrawn from sponsorship of the PHILTA, they continue to support the growth of tennis in the country and have stated their intention to introduce their own innovative age-group tournaments with a unified ranking system.

Among other sponsors who followed suit with Cebuana Lhuillier and the Palawan Pawnshop in ending their sponsorship of PHILTA events were Dunlop, Toby’s Sports, and Babolat, who all contended that the majority of the tennis tournaments across the country are mostly funded by its private patrons in response to a report submitted by PHILTA. Hopefully, the withdrawal of its main sponsors and the direct oversight of the ITF will lead to a change in the PHILTA’s practices. It would be long overdue.