Running for ITF president, Dave Miley wants to fix broken system

Running for ITF president, Dave Miley wants to fix broken system

"Everybody's fighting everybody. The ATP's fighting the ITF. You've got the Grand Slams working independently," said the Irishman.

Since he began running for the position of ITF president, Dave Miley seems to have hardly sat down. He has been on the road for five months, travelled to dozens of countries—including campaigning for two days in a hotel lobby in Madagascar—and will have met with more than 77 national federation presidents before the election during the ITF's Annual General Meeting in Portugal next week.

But it all started with a phone call. The Irishman was contacted by seven federations in Europe and Asia, who told him they were dissatisfied with the recent direction of the ITF and suggested he would be a good candidate.

"Wrong number," he joked.

Still, Miley says, when he looked at his qualifications, it didn't seem like such a wild idea—he had worked for the ITF for 25 years (including running its largest department), spoke English, French and Spanish, had worked together with the other big organizations in the game, and was a former pro-level player and coach. 

But it was his assessment of the state of the game that finally convinced him to run.

"Tennis is very fragmented," Miley told Tennis.com in an interview during the US Open. "Everybody's fighting everybody. The ATP's fighting the ITF. You've got the Grand Slams working independently."


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The ITF's record under current president David Haggerty has been particularly controversial. The international governing body has gone through a chaotic restructuring of lower-level events, a divisive if lucrative revamp of the Davis Cup, and integrity concerns around its procedures. 

"And I think even though I'm nothing special, I can do a much better job," said Miley, who left the ITF five weeks following Haggerty's election as president.

Miley and two other candidates, ITF VP Anil Khanna and the Czech Republic's Ivo Kaderka, are running for ITF President along with Haggerty, who is standing for re-election. But it is Miley who has had the most vocal campaign and has been the most critical of the ITF leadership.

His two biggest areas of concern are the way the reforms to the ITF's World Tennis Tour and the Davis Cup were implemented.

"The ITF developed a new professional tennis structure, spent $1.5 million, told us the old system was terrible, and now we're back to the old system. And nobody seems to be taking responsibility," he said. "What happened was the ITF didn't talk to the people on the tour.

"I think the problem Dave Haggerty has is that he's surrounded by people who never played tennis. The director of professional tennis never played tennis. The general manager never played tennis. The person in charge of development never played tennis."

 

That would be among the first changes Miley would make as part of his pledge to rebuild the lower levels of the game. 

"I want the organization to be driven by tennis. And that means I want the people around me to be some of its top people," he said. "I will make sure we restructure the World Tennis Tour. We start with some people who actually know what it's like there, who know that it costs $60,000 for a player to play the ITF junior circuit and $80,000 for a player to play the entry level tour, no coach."

He isn't sure what form the circuit should finally take—''maybe it needs to be regional, maybe it needs to be U-23, maybe a collegiate system"—but says that he wants around 700 players on the men's and women's tours to break even. According to ITF figures, around 350 men and 250 women currently do.

Miley also opposed the ITF's Davis Cup changes, but says he acknowledges its hands are now tied. The ITF member nations voted to approve the ITF's Board decision to partner with  soccer player Gerard Piqué's company  Kosmos, turning Davis Cup into a one-week, one-location event in an agreement worth more than $120 million annually. These have since been similar changes to the Fed Cup.

"This is not a tennis concept. It's a footballer's concept," he said. "It was driven just by the money."

Miley also questions calculations of the money. Though he says he cannot provide official figures—"they don't give me any information"—Miley cites suggestions circulating from the board that the agreement starts off providing just $14 million more annually for the ITF. Around $70 million is being put into the competition itself, which leaves $41 million for the ITF and its federations. Previously, the ITF earned $27 million from  the old Davis Cup.


Haggerty's presidency has been controversial. (Getty Images)

While Miley says he will uphold the agreement, he also wants to explore adjustments.

"Everyone knew Davis Cup had to change, but it didn't need to change to this [extent]," he said. "But it's a decision. My objective will be to work with Kosmos, and try to find something that respects the tradition and the income. If it doesn't get the same income, I won't change. I don't want to take away money from the federations."

Despite these criticisms, the official formerly in charge of development for the ITF also wants to improve the organization's position in the game.

"I'm going to stand up for the federations, because the ITF member nations, they pay for everything that are costs for the game," said Miley. "They pay for the player development. They pay for the junior circuit. They pay for the entry levels, pay for the umpires, who then work on the tour and the Grand Slams. And they get nothing back.

"I will work with the Grand Slams on the rules of tennis and integrity issues, but in return have the expectation that the Grand Slams, ATP, WTA will contribute more because we create the structure for professional tennis."

Increasing earnings has been a chief issue for the ITF, which has also received scrutiny for its data sales. It gets an annual $14 million for providing scores from events to supply betting companies, while match-fixing has been a persistent problem at the lower levels of the game.

Miley says he prefers having the agreement because "80 percent goes to the federations" and it would otherwise lead to "40 percent less tournaments" for lower-ranked players. Instead, he wants it to fund "better protection" for those events, which are more vulnerable to fixers.

 

These issues and others have also led to the friction among governing authorities which Miley finds concerning. And to reduce it, he wants more attention on areas of co-operation.

"If elected, I'm going to call a world summit on tennis," he said. "I'm going to gather the ATP, WTA, Grand Slams, agents, players, and let's try to agree on ten things that are good for the industry. 

"Does everyone agree that it would be a good thing if the top 300 players had good earnings, if we promoted doubles better, if the top players promoted the game like they do their products -- then let's try to work on that."

ITF elections are difficult to predict, being decided by the votes of representatives of member nations who are usually little known to the general public. During his campaign, Miley has pointed to rule changes since Haggerty's election that he says provide an advantage to the current president. Specifically, he mentions not allowing candidates to participate at regional ITF meetings, including the gathering of African countries at Madagascar where Miley had to speak to representatives at other locations.

But such moves have "backfired" by highlighting integrity concerns around decisions at the top of the ITF, Miley argues, adding, "I think I'm in a good position."

The ITF president is elected by a weighted vote of 148 national federations belonging to the organization.