Inside the Battle to Control, and Fix, Tennis

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The vision may break down, however, when the tours try to figure out how to divide revenue. Men know their tour is more profitable and have long resisted equal partnerships with the women’s tour.

Gaudenzi said more men, especially the younger generation, understand the importance of equality and are much more open to the concept of joining forces with the women than they were when he played in the 1990s.

“They understand the value, you just have to show them the business case,” he said.

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He added: “We are in the entertainment business, so we have to entertain people, not ourselves.”

Also, the plan de-emphasizes smaller tournaments, where players can collect appearance fees. A few of those are the most successful and popular events on the tour, such as the Estoril Open on the Portuguese Riviera, where players love the packed stadiums, seaside setting and full embrace of some of the region’s wealthiest companies, as well as the country’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

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Ackman said much of the maneuvering he has seen represents old-world thinking. That is partly why he aligned with the players, who have the most incentive to push for change. They stars of the show but receive roughly 15 to 25 percent of the revenues — about half of what athletes in other sports receive.

“Tennis is an oligopoly, and oligopolies are not innovative, and nonprofit ones are even less innovative,” Ackman said.

Through his philanthropic fund, Ackman is helping to bankroll Djokovic’s Professional Tennis Players Association, a new players’ union, and the Winners Alliance, a player-controlled, for-profit entity, though he said he has no designs on profiting from tennis.

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