In the early seventies, the game of tennis faced a period of transition and crisis. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in Europe, where the tradition for the various national tennis federations to work independently had created an atmosphere in which, despite being the home of the major power houses in world tennis, the continent had very little voice and no united body to speak for it.
The governing body of world tennis, the International Lawn Tennis Federation at this time had a rotating presidency, which alternated between officials of the home states of the four Grand Slams, Australia, France, Britain and the United States. Around this time, Joseph Dunkel, the Secretary of the Luxembourg Tennis Federation, proposed the idea of regular meetings between the secretaries of the European nations, and a first meeting was arranged in Amsterdam (NED) in 1973, with the secretary of the ILTF, Basil Ray, in attendance. Many of the European nations were keen to progress the notion of uniting European tennis under one body. A concern for European tennis officials in the early seventies was the formation of the World Team tennis league in the USA. The competition was proposed to take place between May and September each year, with a format of teams of three men and three women representing a city and playing home and away ties. Players were offered rewarding contracts and the new format was a popular idea. The fear in Europe was that the new competition would be successful to the detriment of the established ILTF/WCT circuit in Europe, and also to Davis Cup competition.
European Tennis Working Group
With a keen eye on trans-Atlantic developments, the Swedish Tennis Association organized a meeting on December 14, 1973, in Hannover/Germany. The aim was to discuss the situation with the major national associations in Europe and European Tournament organizers. The meeting, attended by 22 delegates from 11 European countries acknowledged the need to strengthen the co-operation and exchange of opinion and information between the European Associations and agreed to set up a European Working Group, composed of Paolo Angeli (ITA), Philippe Chatrier (FRA) (who was later replaced by Jack Chargelègue) (FRA), Mats Hasselquist (SWE) and Franz Feldbausch (GER), (later replaced by Horst Klosterkemper) (GER). Thomas Hallberg (SWE) was appointed to act as Secretary. The European Working Group set itself the tasks of discussing all challenges relating to the development and organization of tennis in Europe, covering every aspect of the game, from juniors, ladies, veterans, calendars, training activities, and so on. One major initial project was to produce an inventory of all competitions in Europe and to include them in international calendars. As the logistical demands of the tasks facing them grew, the nations involved began to consider more seriously the establishment of a European Tennis Association. By the end of 1974, the working group had produced some draft by-laws for such an organization. From this point progress was swift; the working group produced a detailed proposal, including location of offices, appointment of a General Secretary, budget, and so on, which was presented to a meeting with all European Nations, on May 31, 1975 in Rome.
European Tennis Association
Twenty-four delegates from 17 European Nations attended the above-mentioned meeting, where they received reports on the work achieved by the working group since its inception at the end of 1973, and a detailed explanation of the arguments behind the proposal of a European Tennis Association. The meeting unanimously agreed to declare the European Tennis Association as formally established, and appointed Heinz Grimm (SUI) to act as its General Secretary, with offices located in Basel/Switzerland. Paolo Angeli (ITA) was unanimously elected President. A Committee of Management was also convened, who decided at their first meeting that the areas of focus would initially be:
· The Professional Game
· The Amateur Game
· Under 21s and Juniors
· Coaching and Development
The following year, the European Tennis Association's request to be acknowledged as a regional governing body was granted by the ILTF, and was made official on September 29th 1976. The first Board of Management of Tennis Europe can be seen in the above photo, taken at the 1978 Annual General Meeting in Dublin. (Left to right: Antonin Bolardt (Czechoslovakia), Radmilo Nikolic (Yugoslavia), Heinz Grimm (Switzerland, General Secretary), Eve Malmquist (Sweden), Horst Klosterkemper (Germany), Paolo Angeli (Italy, President), Theodor Zeh (Austria), Pablo Llorens (Spain), Derek Penman (Great Britain), Jack Chargelègue (France).