ATP players and tournaments to share profits

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Players and tournaments will share profits 50-50 from 2023 on the men’s ATP Tour while total prize money will surge thanks to an agreed expansion of top-tier tournaments, the global governing body of the men’s circuit announced on Thursday.

The ATP said its strategic plan for widespread reform has received the green light, in a move that is likely to end the bitter wrangling over prize money and profit-sharing in men’s tennis.

This first phase of the ATP’s OneVision plan — primarily aimed at boosting revenue from media and television rights — was approved by its board after more than two years of deliberations.

“Shifting everybody’s mind into the future has been the most difficult part,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi told Reuters.

“But I think overall we kept being very persistent, the evidence we provided, a lot of data, a lot of information, a lot of material and ultimately we convinced, I wouldn’t say everybody, but the majority.”

A lack of transparency has long been a cause of friction between tournaments and players, and the issue flared again when the coronavirus pandemic forced cuts in prize money.

But starting next year players will have access to the audited financial statements of events, the 50-50 profit sharing formula will be implemented and there will be increased prize money and bonus pools due to the expansion of ATP 1000 events.

Gaudenzi, a former top-20 singles player, says the sport overly relies on ticket sales and needs structural change.

He was “happy and proud” finally to get the board’s backing after the pandemic forced all sporting bodies into crisis mode.

“It’s a little bit like trying to engage employees in a startup,” he said. “You give them stock options, you give them a share of the upside and success. That’s where you create the motivation and the drive. And that’s where you create alignment.”

Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami already take place as 12-day events with bigger draw sizes. Starting in 2023, the ATP Masters events in Madrid, Rome and Shanghai will also follow suit.

From 2025, the Canada and Cincinnati events will also transform to 12 days.

The four Grand Slams — the biggest events on the tennis calendar and run independently outside the ATP or the women’s WTA — are played over two weeks, or 15 days for the French Open.

“It does help tennis in general if the gap between Slams and Masters becomes a little bit smaller because you want to have the continuity of the narrative,” Gaudenzi said.

“That’s a huge value, especially nowadays that players like Apple, Amazon, Netflix… when they roll out the product, they roll it out in 180 markets not in one. What’s better than tennis? It’s 24/7, every day of the year, gender neutral, both men and women.”

Prize money at the five expanded tournaments will jump by more than 35% between 2022 and 2025, the ATP says. The year-end bonus pool is projected almost to double in the near term and will be distributed between the top-30 players instead of the top-12 previously.

A new profit sharing mechanism could stand to benefit more than 140 players, based on the financial performance of tournaments.

Enjoying a massive worldwide following, tennis is governed by seven different organisations: ATP, WTA, the four Grand Slams and the International Tennis Federation.

The second phase of “OneVision” aims at creating a unified governance structure and operating model for the sport.

Gaudenzi admits it will not be easy.

“Let’s say without phase one, phase two made no sense,” he added. “Sometimes it’s more difficult to get the engine started. Once you get the engine started, you’re always gonna have a few bumps in the road.”

The marketing departments of the ATP and WTA were aligned at the start of 2021 and Gaudenzi feels the “natural first step” of the second phase will be for the men’s and women’s bodies to further collaborate.

“Once you put together all the power of all the tournaments and the content, that’s what the fans want,” he said.

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