As the world’s best battle it out on the lush greens of the All-England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon for one of tennis’ four major titles, an increasingly bitter and splenetic contest is gathering pace away from the court.
In September, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is set to buck the recent trend in sports governance by holding an election for its top job where more than one candidate is in the running.
Incumbent David Haggerty is facing a three-pronged challenge for the position he was elevated to back in 2015. Irishman Dave Miley, India’s ITF vice-president Anil Khanna and Czech Republic’s Ivo Kaderka are those seeking to unseat the American at the Annual General Meeting in Lisbon in September 27.
While it remains early in the campaign – there are more than two months to go before the vote takes place in the Portuguese capital – the race has already had its fair share of accusations, mudslinging and public criticism.
Much of these verbal volleys have come from Miley, the former executive director of tennis development at the ITF.
At the launch of his manifesto last week, held in a private room in a plush café in Wimbledon Village, Miley insisted he would not speak ill of the other candidates before proceeding to do exactly that in a classic tactic used by politicians all over the world.
The Irishman claimed his American rival had broken the code of conduct through his employment of a consultancy firm to run his bid for re-election, an allegation denied by Haggerty and the company itself, Jon Tibbs Associates (JTA), which had previously worked for the ITF.
The regulations state candidates should "not receive individual or special support or services from the ITF, or ITF staff, including any consultants, agents or advisors engaged by the ITF".
JTA stressed Haggerty had not broken the rules and said it had ended its relationship with the ITF before beginning its work with Haggerty. It is also worth noting that Miley did not provide any evidence to support his accusation, clearly made to stir the pot and attempt to swell the tide against the current President.
Miley may be misdirected with his allegations against Haggerty in that regard, but he makes a good point on the campaigning rules, which seem heavily weighted in favour of the incumbent.
The issue has been a prominent one throughout the race to date, with both Miley and Kaderka publicly speaking out against the ITF and its Ethics Commission.
The challengers have so far been barred from attending regional meetings in Africa and South America to promote their ideas and proposals under the regulations, drawn up by the ITF Ethics Commission.
The rules put the onus on the continental associations to decide whether candidates can attend their meetings for the sole purpose of campaigning, but it seems a little too coincidental that this so happens to help the incumbent’s cause. The ITF, for its part, has claimed it was not involved in the creation of the regulations.
“The code of conduct stops me from doing everything Dave Haggerty did four years ago,” Miley said.
Kaderka seems to agree, telling insidethegames last month that the “situation gives him [Haggerty] an advantage over his competitors” and the ITF has “edited a code of conduct that favours the current President”.
There seems a simple solution to this: end the restrictive nature of the rules and allow everyone, including Haggerty, the chance to freely campaign, providing they all adhere to the rules.
It is a clever move from Miley and Kaderka to so openly castigate the regulations as by doing so they have led people to question the ITF and the direction the governing body has been taken in by Haggerty during his first four-year term.
As they have both pointed out, the state of play was different when Haggerty was gunning for the Presidency in 2015.
In some ways, however, Miley has focused too much on the perceived shortcomings of the ITF President in his campaign so far. He even dedicates a whole page of his manifesto to his "concerns about the ITF”, where he lists 10 issues which he claims are “shared by many member nation Presidents”.
These range from “governance and integrity issues related to the ITF constitution and an overall lack of transparency” to a “lack of tangible actions to increase participation in the more developed tennis markets, and to address the significant challenges facing this market”.
There will be those who agree, particularly with Miley’s criticism of the World Tennis Tour, launched in January and which has been described as a “disaster” and an “embarrassment”, and it is always good to see an International Federation taken to task as too many are given free reign to do as they wish without internal or external opposition.
Unsurprisingly, Haggerty’s manifesto is on the opposite end of the spectrum and centres on how he will build on the progress he believes he has made since he took charge.
“We have more than doubled revenue, we reorganised the development department, we adopted a strategic approach that was lacking,” Haggerty writes, before adding how the ITF “doubled development spending, improved communications with the nations and regions, ensured that every nation has a voice that is heard and engaged member federations”.
In any political election, candidates make promises they are never likely to fulfil. The manifestos are designed to win votes. Once they are elected, they are under no obligation to live up to their vows.
But some of Miley’s are worth scrutiny, even if they eventually fail to come to fruition.
Despite never-ending concern over the scheduling of major tennis tournaments, Miley has proposed creating a biennial joint World Championships for men and women to improve the governing body’s revenue streams.
Miley also vows to “double the global tennis market” without providing too many concrete methods to achieve it. A manifesto claim from Haggerty – whose tenure has been a difficult one because of controversial reforms to the Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions – falls into a similar category as the American said he would increase the ITF's revenue generation and grow the amount of development money invested in the sport to $18 million (£14 million/€16 million) if he is given a second four-year term.
Where the two feuding officials agree is the need to restructure the administration with a view to potentially establishing an ITF chairman to work alongside the President. They have also both promised to reinvest their bonuses into the sport, which Haggerty has done since his election.
Neither Kaderka nor Khanna have yet revealed their manifestos but both are thought to be working hard behind the scenes. They may not be as public-facing as the other two but they are still very much in contention at this stage.
In fact, Khanna joins the race with arguably the strongest platform. The Indian official, who was beaten by Haggerty by just eight votes in the 2015 election, is already a vice-president of the ITF and is likely to be able to count on the support of the Asian countries owing to his role as head of the continental body.
Wimbledon might soon be coming to an end but the ITF Presidential campaign is only just getting started.