“‘Tennis as a job’ would become a new social welfare”

On the 7th of February Ike Leus (unknown to me) reposted my blog post “$100,000, a DREAM year, and nothing to show for it…” on the ITF Pro Circuit Facebook page with the following comment:

“This is hilarious… guy talks about finding a 100k sponsor who expects nothing in return. Then starts to rant that the ATP World TourWTA or ITF – Pro Circuits should fund players better. Tennis is a sport buddy, why should -> business <- organisations or country federations give full-coverage money to players when there is no depletion of new talent? If they fund them and they become top 20 they move to some fiscal paradise where the “funding country” rarely sees any of their initial investments back. If they would fund everybody, then ‘tennis as a job’ would become a new social welfare.” 

Another guy, Rowland Charles Goodman, joined in with: “Sometimes analogies help to understand. Imagine that he wanted to build a factory to make a product. He has a sum of money. Should he make a business plan? Or should he build the best factory he can, and not worry that he has not enough money to fund the operation of the factory until it makes enough money to be self-funding? I guess he thinks the latter is best – you have to be the best you can? If you are lucky you can find more money – but more likely the project is killed off before it delivers – and all the money is wasted – just like he’s tennis player.” 

Little do both these people know that I am NOT looking for a 100K sponsor rather trying to help the future players in this sport…

My response to them: “Ike Leus and Rowland Charles Goodman you are both missing the point. I am not currently trying to find a 100K sponsor so that I can go improve my very average ranking of 440 in doubles and 780 in singles. This blog post was a very simple EXAMPLE of how the system works. I am no longer playing professionally because I cannot fund myself, I played for 1.5 years and reached the above ranking. If you took the time to read ANY of my other posts or if you UNDERSTOOD that this was a hypothetical then I wouldn’t be making this comment. My point is the following: Give players like myself (as an example) and thousands of others more prize money at the lower levels so that they don’t need to quit at their highest ranking when they run out of money 1.5 years into it. VERY few guys break through to the top 100 within their first year on the tour. No matter how much the increase at lower level is tennis will never become a ‘social welfare’ like you mentioned. The sport is simply too tough (IF you were a player you would understand, but that doesn’t seem like the case) This brings me to tennis in 2014, modern day tennis, players NEED at least 3-4 years to give them the BEST chance to break through (if they have the potential) the only way to see that is if you are able to spend 3-4 years out there playing 20-30 tournaments a year in 5 different countries. I never once said that players at the lower levels should be making a living from the sport, by no means. I am saying that it makes the most sense that players that are making 1/4, semi and finals on a weekly basis can at least pay most of their expenses for the week. That way players will be able to survive, eat better, stay in nicer hotels (from a motel to a 2 star- I’m not talking luxury) etc. Back to my example in my post. Again, EXAMPLE (because I am no longer competing and will not benefit from any prize money increase), IF I had all the money in the world and made it to 150 in the world, a hell of an achievement in my eyes, I will still not come close to making a GOOD living from the sport. Yes it is a sport, Buddy, but are you telling me that a 429% increase in prize money since 1998 in Grand slams and a 0% increase in challengers and ITF future events makes sense? Is it good for the sport? and are the top 200 players the real top 200? I don’t think so based on the fact that hundreds of extremely talented players quit at their highest ranking because they run out of money. 90% of those players probably wouldn’t have made it to the top 100 regardless if the system was better or not but many players would have. If you still disagree with what I am saying, now that I have explained that this is not about me or about a sponsor, it is an attempt to see what can be changed to better the lives of lower level tennis players to give them the best chance to make it to the top – if they have what it takes. It takes 3-4 years in the modern game, very few guys make it top 100 in a year even if they have the talent and the money. SO why not make it possible for MORE players (guys making 1/4, semi, finals every week) not ALL players to make a LITTLE more money? They should have slowly increase the prize money over the years but they didn’t. Last thing, I am not benefitting from this ’cause’ in any way or form. By you having a go at me telling me I’m going on a rant is irrelevant to me because all Im trying to do is make players and people in general aware of the situation in professional tennis, you will be surprised how many people have NO idea. While doing that I thought it was worth trying to see what the response from the ATP and ITF will be. Many players as high as 20 in the world have reached out to me along with CURRENT ATP player council members. They all agree their is an issue and it has been spoken about in all meeting for the past 2 years but has been very challenging to change. Myself along with these players are trying to see what can be done to make a difference, not knowing if there is a solution or not. No need to attack the EXAMPLE i gave or have a go at me, this isn’t about me, its about tennis and the future players in this sport…”

I had no idea this post was up until someone emailed me a screen shot of it today. Thought it was worth sharing.

Support the Facebook page and give any suggestions on the Facebook group. The more opinions we get the better chance we have to make a difference!

The Structure of the ATP & ITF – Breakdown

After a couple of weeks trying to gather useful information on the structure of the ATP and ITF I have put something together. If you are familiar with the ATP and ITF or not its worth a read. Here is a general breakdown:

ATP structure:
– the ATP and ITF are separate entities. The ATP owns the challengers, and all tour events
– the ITF are responsible for futures and Davis Cup. They have an affiliation with Grand Slams but they don’t have any power or say when it comes to decisions the Grand Slams make
– the ATP has two sections, the players and the tournaments. They form part of the same company. This makes the structure of the ATP quite unique. At the board level there are 7 positions. 3 player board positions, 3 tournament board positions, and the CEO. The 6 board members (3 tournament, 3 player) are individuals voted by their respective constituencies.
– All decisions regarding any changes to the tour go to a vote. Depending on the nature of what is being decided upon, a different number of votes are needed to pass the new rule/law.
– the player council consists of 10 players. They work together with our 3 player board reps, who represent their wishes at the ATP board meetings
– therefore a balance of power is created, between the players and the tournaments. For example, say the players decide they want a 10 minute warm up for matches. The player council votes on it. If it it passes a majority vote, the player board reps will vote for it at the board meeting. However in order to get something passed more than 4 votes are required. Therefore unless the tournaments agree as well, the rule won’t be changed (unless the CEO votes as a deciding 7th vote)
– this system can sometimes be very frustrating as they have to always have tournament support. However at the same time it stops the tournaments from doing what they want to do.
Prize money:
Apparently price money has been a huge point of discussion over the last two years but it seems like the increases are still focused at the top.
– It started with the Grand Slams. One thing to take notice is that the Slams don’t form part of the ATP. Therefore any negotiations with the Slams were done only by the players side. The tournament side didn’t have any power (although they were all against extra prize money because it makes their tournaments seem less important)
– There has been some very good progress at the 250 and 500 level. Not exactly what the players would like, but remember everything has to be agreed with from the tournament side – and they don’t want to pay extra money. And additionally they don’t want other tournaments to increase their prize money as it makes them look bad. A good example is the following: Larry Ellison has wanted to give more prize money for the Indian Wells event. From a players side this is obviously very good. But from the tournament side they didn’t like this as it makes other tournaments seem less important. This was recently voted upon. It went to a 3 all vote (all 3 tournament reps voted against it) The CEO broke the tie and voted in favor of the players. This is where the ATP structure can be very frustrating from a players side.
– at the 1000 level things are tougher. They all have 10 years contracts ending in 2018. So until then the players can try press the tournaments for increases, but they are somewhat limited in what they can do.
This outlines the general structure of the ATP and what has happened to prize money at the tour level. Although the top guys are wanting more money they are making a great living. My concern are the lower levels in challengers and futures.  So:
– remember that the futures and challengers are separate entities.
– over the last couple years there have been improvements at the challenger level. This has come largely from an agreement that licenses online scoring. The revenue from this is going into the challenger level. I know the base level of challengers have been raised, I think the minimum soon will be 50+H. 
– There is definitely a push to try and keep raising the prize money at the challenger level. They want to make tennis as attractive as possible to players aspiring to reach the top and know its not where it is meant to be.
In an email from a current council member he said, “There has been progress, but there is still a ways to go. At all levels of the game. I know at the future and challenger level there is not a lot of financial reward.”
The above information doesn’t have many suggestions, if any, but it will give everyone a better idea of what is going on behind the scenes. The ATP are clearly trying to make an effort to increase the prize money but as you can see most of the focus remains at the ATP 250, 500, and 1000 level. They are trying to increase the challenger prize money for the players but tournaments don’t want the increase because it will mean they will have to come up with more money to have the event. The topic of prize money has been going on throughout the ATP for over two years, lets keep pushing for the conversation to flow down to the futures.
“Having players come together and voice their opinions will put more pressure to move things forward. So the more players you can reach out to and unite the better. But its important to have a very clear agenda. If you have a clear agenda, both regarding futures and challengers, and have player support that is when the most progress can be made.”

Update on the recent activity

There has been a lot of activity on the Facebook group after the two most recent posts. View the posts and the comments here
The structure of the ATP and more information about the ITF will be posted later this week. Some of this information can be found on the Facebook group under the two most recent posts in the comment section

Improve player representation on the ATP & ITF board

Tristan Farron-Mahon shared this on the ATP & ITF Petition Page:
Players perspectives on the governance of men’s professional tennis
“Great page….for those of you who haven’t filled it out yet or seen it. I am doing a research dissertation at Loughborough University on the very challenges that you all face, focusing on opportunity (financial) and player representation (voice) across the ATP and ITF. As a former player I know the difficulties you have and things need to change, this survey below is the first stage of my research which will be followed up with interviews and then published results. These results will be sent through to the ITF in order to show them what the players actually think of the current system, the more who complete it the better. All information given is completely confidential and players will not and cannot be identified within the results. I have already got 105 answers and the only criteria is that you had at least 1 singles point at any time. As I am on a strict time limit, it will only be possible to complete the survey for the next three days after which it will be withdrawn for analysis. Thanks and good luck!” It will only take a minute (15 Multiple choice questions)

Contribute to the EMAIL list…

There are currently 3 ATP Challengers (Dallas, Chennai, & West Lakes) and 6 ITF Futures (Argentine, Egypt, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain & Turkey) been played around the world. If you are currently playing in these events or reading this blog post please send me players names and emails to add to my list, it will only take 5 minutes. Thank you!



What’s next for the ‘Petition’?

“Tennis is an all-around sport. You need speed, coordination, endurance, flexibility, power, strength, mental stability and also a lot money and traveling.”

Thanks to everyone that contacted me after my last post. I was able to connect with a former council member that has offered to help get in touch with the current council members who will hopefully be able to help us move forward with the ‘Petition’.

If you didnt know, I started a Facebook group and Facebook page, ‘ATP and ITF -Time for change’ and ‘ATP & ITF Petition’ to reach out to as many players as possible. I have started an email list of all the players who have contacted me, the list is growing daily.  Once the letter is written (with the help of Former SA Tennis CEO, Ian Smith and former council members – if thats what they end up recommending) I will email everyone on my list the ‘petition’ or upload a form on my website to sign.

We are heading in the right direction, spread the word, send me emails with contacts and I will keep everyone updated on the page. Cheers

Email: keithcrowleytennis@gmail.com