Earlier this year we mentioned headlines in Europe regarding the scandals surrounding the Norwegian Tennis Federation. "Norges Tennisforbund" had reportedly gotten some bad press throughout spring. Its secretary-general was fired, local clubs felt ignored and critics were scolding federation officials over high salaries, too much travel, and potential conflicts of interest.
We saw first rumors and allegations about the state of affairs at the Norwegian Governing Body of Tennis on Tennis ChitChat. We'll bring you the most important points here, followed by comments and an update from Thomas A. Wettergreen, a well-known consultant and personality in Norwegian tennis. Wettergreen was one of the outspoken critics speaking out against the misuse of finances at the federation which was first reported on TV 2 and public broadcasting company NRK.
Trouble Under the Northern Lights
by Rich Neher
Norway's newspaper Aftenposten summed it all up in May, reporting that "the tennis powers-that-be are caught in their worst crisis ever. Secretary-general Alexander Kjær was shown the door after he was caught using indoor training facilities in violation of Corona containment measures, but also after news broke that he’d been paid a bonus simply for staying within budget."
It was also reported that the federation’s sports chief Øivind Sørvald had been criticized for excessive travel to tournaments around the world, while also serving as a so-called “expert commentator” for Eurosport. "That’s led to alleged conflicts of interest, while local clubs and players think he should have been spending more time on them."
Norwegian television channel TV2 had been interviewing foreign tennis coaches, like Reno Manne, who have worked in Norway and criticized how the federation uses its resources. "While Norway can claim tennis star Casper Ruud, the federation has been roundly criticized for not devoting resources to nurturing more talent among young Norwegians."
Thomas Wettergreen noted that that President Lars Gjerdåker finally realized that Secretary-General Alexander Kjær's bonus agreement was a mistake. While many clubs were starving for help and funds, he asked, "Why did no one on the board react to this before? Has this bonus agreement ever been presented and discussed with the clubs?"
The Tennis ChitChat article featured comments by Coaches Tiago Bartolo and Reno Manne, like
"Many generations of players were wasted".
"They control the sport like a mafia".
"They need to find out what "democratic" means."
"You need to have the right people to get support."
International Coach Reno Manne (Florida) worked with and coached 6 world #1 players, lived in Norway part of the year from 1993-2013. Manne was quoted as saying, "Tennis in Norway has great potential, but there is an unculture there. Things just aren't going right. It's like a mafia culture in my opinion, so to speak. A small group has far too much power over what happens in Norwegian Tennis. Coaches in Norway are afraid to speak out, it's not right or good. People should not be afraid to talk."
Manne also questioned why the secretary-general was given the CEO job "after he was banned from Norwegian cycling after being caught seriously cheating. And yet he gets the job, how did that happen?" And in reference to his "mafia" comment, Manne added, "I'm just waiting for Joe Pesci to show up on their Facebook page!"
Tiago Bartolo worked as a tennis coach in Norway between 2012-2018 but does not describe his experience as a happy one. "During those years I was involved in producing some of the best players in Norway. Every time I asked for support, I got rejected."
Not everyone agreed with the negative sentiments regarding the Norwegian Tennis Federation. Tennis ChitChat asked Audun Ø Thorshaug, Chairman of the Trondhjems Tennisklubb who does not agree with all the criticism. He said, "I do not recognize in a description of "mafia". I consider them to be open and very accessible to us. Sports Manager Øivind Sørvald, intern CEO Aslak Paulsen and the others are a phone call away."
TV2 reported at the time that federation president Lars Gjerdåker had agreed to an external investigation of the federation after all the criticism. Local clubs will also be invited to vent their frustration.
Thomas A. Wettergreen
Head Coach and Owner T&T Tennisakademi
Former President Norwegian Tennisveterans
Former board member Oslo Tennisklubb
Thomas has been working as a tennis coach for different clubs in Norway for the past twenty years. He has helped many clubs to improve their tennis school and upgrade equipment. In addition, he focuses on tennis trips abroad, especially to mainland Spain and Mallorca. He is also the Norwegian agent for the Rafa Nadal Academy.
Wettergreen's comments as of December 14, 2020
"I have criticized the Norwegian Tennis Federation (NTF) in previous years for how they dispose of money and human resources. It was criticism of the NTF for high salaries, bonus schemes, excessive travel activities, extra jobs alongside a 100% position in the tennis federation etc.
I think the first article in «Tennis chitchat» at the end of April was what sparked the media's interest. That was probably the reason why the Norwegian media used me in a number of articles and in television news and debates in May and June.
In addition, in my opinion, there are many strong ties between the employees of NTF and their partners, which can lead to decisions being made on the wrong basis. Where has the board of NTF been in recent years? They have obviously not followed closely enough what kind of decisions have been made.
In my opinion, there will also be a need for changes in the administration and the board. So far, not much has happened here, but it will be interesting to read the report from the working group that will be made available during January 2021.
I received lots of inquiries during the hectic period of May and June where the tennis case was in most media. The inquiries came from parents, coaches, players, and clubs who had little pleasant stories about NTF to come up with. Most were afraid to stand up because they feared discomfort in relation to their own role in Norwegian tennis and consequences from NTF.
The opposition in Tennis Norway wanted an independent investigation of the allegations that emerged, and that this should be done by a neutral third party such as a law firm or accounting firm. This did not happen. An extraordinary annual meeting was convened on the 20th of June. Here, the majority of the delegates decided that a working group should be set up with participants from several Norwegian tennis clubs who would conduct research on the topics that had been criticized.
A committee was set up with participants from several Norwegian tennis clubs who were commissioned to make research on the allegations that have emerged. It has been divided into different areas such as finance, communication, top tennis etc. The report will be made available during January 2021. In my opinion, the working group has taken a thorough approach, and it will be very interesting to see what will be the result of this work."
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