THE proximity of the River Clyde to the media press centre may have been a cause for concern for Roger Draper, the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, yesterday morning.
Such is the growing disillusionment with his leadership, certainly among members of the press, that Draper could have been forgiven for believing that pre-emptive action may be taken to throw him overboard as British tennis flounders in a sea of underachievement.
Or does it? The fire aimed at Draper was sustained and not without accuracy yesterday. But there is increasing evidence that there is a north-south divide in the world of British tennis.
Draper was facing the press for the first time since it was revealed that Sport England has cut £530,000 of funding to the LTA because adult participation numbers in tennis have fallen in England from 530,900 to 375,00.
Increasing participation is a major plank of the LTA's strategy and the figures leave Draper vulnerable, particularly because his other aim of taking 10 British players into the world top 100 seems a long way off since the declaration four years ago.
In contrast, Tennis Scotland has received further funding from sportscotland and is confident that can be increased over the coming years. The tennis body points to an increase in British Tennis membership to 22,000, an increase in club membership to 47,000, an increase in Clubmark-registered clubs to 70, and an increase to 3000 in juniors playing.
Gordon Baker, chair of Tennis Scotland, speaking about 100 yards away from the besieged Draper, was on another continent in terms of mood. As Draper was on the defensive, Baker spoke of the "fantastic potential" for the sport in Scotland and said it had three or four years to capitalise on the Murray Factor, namely the success of the world No.4.
Scotland has been seen as the jewel in the crown of British tennis and Baker called for more funding to produce bigger success.
His message on Clydeside was: "Give us the tools and we will finish the job."
Baker would like to increase his development staff from three to six and is acutely aware that Scotland needs more courts, particularly indoors. He senses that there is the political will to help the sport and is keen to push on with efforts to make the sport more accessible.
Draper was hardly animated about Scotland. Asked if there was any lesson that the British game could learn from Scotland, he said that comparing figures was like comparing "apples and oranges".
Asked if Scotland could be given more money, he replied: "There has been investment in Scotland, particularly in park facilities."
This is a reference to the £160,000 spent on restoring the courts at Brodie Park, Paisley.
He added: "It is not just about facilities but it is about the quality of the people. You can invest a lot of money in facilities but you need the people. Without them you won't get growth. Scotland has benefited from a big group of quality people working there and we have to give them beneficial assistance."
So more money will come?
"Yeah, as part of the roll-out plan for Tennis Scotland. We are seeing growth in tennis in Scotland."
This is undoubtedly true but Draper was less convincing on other issues. He was not helped by the presence of Peter Bretherton, president of the LTA. Bretherton's priority has been participation, so he admitted the fall in the figures is "disappointing".
The statistics regarding the advancement of players, too, are not encouraging. When Draper took over in April 2006, there were three British men in the world top 100 – Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Murray. Now there is only the Scot. There were nine men in the top 300. Now there are only four. There were 18 men in the top 500. Now there are 14. There has been progress in the women's game, but the stated LTA goals seem distant.
It would be absurd to place all the blame for this on Draper, but as a chief executive with two planks of policy, both of them riddled with woodworm, it is obvious why he is facing questions about how long he can hang on to his £400,000-a-year post.
He was asked directly about his future on two occasions yesterday, with little clarity emerging. Bretherton stepped in with this reply to the first: "The board has a strategy. We know what the strategy is. The putting into practice of that strategy is part of the strategy and the board is satisfied with the strategy and the way it is being put into effect. Until the board decides otherwise, that is where we are."
Indeed. Draper, who based his defence on the fact that it takes time to effect change, showed no signs of believing it is running out for him. However, there was a palpable feeling yesterday on the banks of the Clyde that the tide is turning against him.