ATP Approves Raft of Changes to Share Tennis’s Wealth

PARIS – The ATP, which runs the men’s professional tennis tour, has approved a large package of changes that include profit-sharing between tournaments and players and making five more of the tour’s top-line Masters 1000 events bigger and longer.

Andrea Gaudenzi, an Italian and former star player, mapped out much of this long-term plan when he became chairman of the ATP, taking over the post at the beginning of 2020.

It has taken more than two and a half years to get the package approved because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic as well as the myriad tensions and fiefs within the sport.

“It’s been a long time coming, and to me, it’s been a big step toward aligning the players and the tournaments more and more in the spirit of partnership, which is exactly how the ATP was designed decades ago,” said Todd. Martin, a former top-five singles player and president of the ATP Player Council, is now the chief executive of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The ATP is an unusual, often unwieldy partnership in professional sports between labor and management: Players and tournament owners have equal representation on the board of directors and the ability to block each other’s initiatives.

This structure has made change difficult and sometimes excruciatingly slow in a fragmented sport that also has six other governing bodies: the WTA; the International Tennis Federation; And the four Grand Slam tournaments, which operate independently of each other and the tours and generate more than 80 percent of the revenue in professional tennis.

The new ATP package, set to be announced Monday, tries to close some of that gap by strengthening other tournaments and close ranks within the men’s tour, which has been split by internal dissent. Novak Djokovic, currently the No. 1 men’s singles player, spearheaded the creation of the Professional Tennis Players Association in 2020 with the goal of creating more negotiating power for the players and expanding the number of players able to earn a living on tour.

But most top men’s stars, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, have been back to the PTPA, and all three are part of the ATP Player’s Council, which was instrumental in getting new changes approved.

It is a wide-ranging plan that also creates stricter rules for conflicts of interest for board members and improved player conditions during tournaments. But the key changes come down to sharing.

The ATP will aggregate tournament rights in ATP Media, the tour’s sales, production and distribution arm. For the first time, the Masters 1000 tournaments, the regular top-notch events on the nine top events that include Miami Open and BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., Will share a percentage of revenue from ATP Media with lower-category tournaments. known as ATP 500s and ATP 250s. The 500s and 250s will also have guaranteed representation on an expanded board of directors.

For the first time, the Masters 1000 tournaments will allow for independent independent auditing and grant players a share of the profits on top of the base prize money.

“We said, ‘Let’s start really at the root of the problem,’ which is the lack of trust between players and tournaments,” Gaudenzi said in a telephone interview. “And all those fights that take place every year take 80 to 90 percent of our time and energy and resources and are all about 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent of prize money.”

Gaudenzi said the profit-sharing deal, like the ATP plan as a whole, would run for 30 years from 2023 to 2053 and called for a guaranteed prize money of 2.5 percent each year at the Masters 1000 events. After the multilevel auditing process, players would get a percentage of profits based on their performance in all of the Masters 1000 tournaments. If the tournaments lose money, the base prize money will remain the same.

Gaudenzi said the annual bonus pool would also increase substantially, “targeting $ 20 million” (up from about $ 11 million this year), and would have paid out 30 players instead of the current 12.

In exchange, the Masters are 1000s expanding. Until now, the only Miami and Indian Wells were 12-day events with 96-player draws. But early next year, the tournaments in Madrid, Rome and Shanghai will expand to 11 or 12 days, and the Canadian Open and Western and Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, are set to expand in 2025.

That would only leave the Monte Carlo and Paris Masters as weeklong 1000-level events, but Gaudenzi said the hope was to expand them and make them combined men’s and women’s tournaments.

“We’re trying to provide more days of premium entertainment,” Gaudenzi said.

He said market research showed that about a billion fans followed to some degree to tennis but that the vast majority “just checks in and checks out the big matches” like “the semifinals and finals of Slams.”

He said the goal was to create a bigger core of 100 million fans who follow the sport more closely year-round.

“The difference between the Slams and the Masters is my opinion is a little bit too great now if you compare it to, say, golf,” Gaudenzi said. “In terms of success and prize money, the majors and the PGA Tour are a lot closer, and we need to bring that level up because we want to give fans a narrative from January to the ATP Finals at the end of the year. “

The expansion of the Masters will create 1000s of fallout, reducing the available window for the smaller tournaments, especially the ATP 250s, the lowest rung on the main tour’s ladder.

“When the schedule gets compressed, you’re going to lose some 250s somewhere,” said Bill Oakes, a former tournament director in 250 Winston-Salem, NC “People are going to be forced out, but I’ve talked to multiple tournament directors who said, ‘It’s not going to be me; It’s going to be the other guy. ‘”

Gaudenzi said attrition would be lower but that the long-range goal was not simply to change the ATP but to grow tennis as a whole by creating more unified governance and safeguards. He added that he has sought to avoid conflicts like this one with Wimbledon this year, which barred Russian and Belarusian players from playing this summer only to see the ATP and WTA retaliate the striking points of the tournament.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that causes a disruption to the players for sure and everyone,” Gaudenzi said. “The only thing I can say is, I hope this is the last time this ever happens.”

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