Fri | Apr 19, 2019

‘We have to work together’ - Azar confirms Tennis Jamaica presidency bid, calls for unity

Published:Friday | April 12, 2019 | 12:17 AMAndrÈ Lowe/Sports Editor

Businessman and tennis enthusiast John Azar has confirmed to The Gleaner that he will be challenging incumbent Aswad Morgan for the Tennis Jamaica presidency at the organisation’s upcoming annual general Meeting (AGM).

Azar, who on Wednesday met with various stakeholders, including Morgan and other members of his executive at the Liguanea Club, says he is confident that with the right support, he can have a positive influence on the sport locally and has called for unity and greater involvement ahead of the AGM.

He pointed to several issues, such as a lack of engagement, poor communication, and insufficient benefits for TJ members, not enough TJ tournament and events as well as other concerns, which he believes are currently limiting the growth of the sport in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, in reference to Morgan’s plans to build a world-class tennis facility, Azar warned that while such a facility would be welcomed if it became a reality, it does not address immediate concerns of low involvement and engagement in the sport, which he underlined as critical to the sport’s relevance and development.

Azar, who noted that the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to provide an opportunity for stakeholders and officials to discuss the challenges and the way forward, says he has been overwhelmed by the support his candidacy has received from the community but pointed out that the various factions within the sport must pull together to achieve the objectives.

“I’ve been asked by many persons if I would consider serving on a new board at Tennis Jamaica considering that the AGM is coming up. I do have the passion for tennis, the passion to serve. I do believe I can make a difference, but I also believe there is no one man or woman who can rescue, in my mind, tennis or alter the direction in which the sport is currently going,” Azar said, while calling on others to get more involved in the sport’s administration and development.

“I felt it was important to have a meeting like that to see if I can encourage others with the passion for the game, the time, and the talent to contribute to come off the sidelines and actually serve,” Azar added.

Azar has had issues with TJ in the past, being at the centre of a bitter election in November 2015. One member, Joseph Dibbs, actually took TJ and three of its senior members to court, seeking to have the Supreme Court rule that Azar, who had challenged former president John Bailey, was duly elected. The results of the election in question were declared null and void after six more votes were counted than the 77 eligible voters.

However, Azar, who says he will be running without a slate in an effort to limit the chance of ­creating any further splits in the organisation, is looking to pull all the elements together, pointing to his decision to not run with a slate of candidates as an indication of willingness to work with anyone to move the sport forward.

“The main focus would be uniting the tennis community, convincing them that the only way forward is by persons putting aside their personal differences and realising that when individuals share a common goal, together, you can move mountains,” Azar noted.

“I am not running with a slate of candidates. I am willing to work with anyone for the betterment of the sport, so if I’m fortunate enough to be elected, I am prepared to work with anyone. With how divided certain factions are in tennis, I felt if I ran with a slate, I ran the risk of furthering that divide, and if I am successfully elected as president, starting on the wrong premise,” he added.