“‘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.

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A ‘simple’ & reasonable solution worth reviewing…

After creating, ‘ATP and ITF – Time for CHANGE’ and ‘ATP & ITF Petition’, I received hundreds of emails from players and tennis fans on a daily basis. The word is spreading, big time! There are currently thousands of people getting involved with this ’cause’ in over 5 different countries.

After reading through many different suggestions from people I wanted to share a very ‘simple’ idea with you. If the ITF with the support of the ATP can make the prize money system at the lower levels like it used to be. Players at the futures level were able to earn enough to break even. Tennis players at this level are what we refer to as, ‘GRINDERS’. They are willing to risk everything they have, travel to the most random places in well below average conditions, and be on the road for 40 weeks of the year living out of a bag knowing they will have $0 by the end of the year. We all know this but we still do it, why? For the love of the game? sure. That love runs out quicker than you think.

Imagine how much more competitive the tour would be at this level and how many more lower level players would be able to break through if the ATP/ITF simply increased the prize money to where players could break even. I think that is a reasonable request! (If they kept increasing the prize money in the lower levels tournaments over the years small percentages at a time we wouldn’t be having this issue).
It gives the really talented and hard working players with no money a longer period of time to be able to break through. By no means am I suggesting that future level players that lose first round every week should be making money. Way to many players are forced to quit at their highest ranking. I believe that is a reason to change the system for the better of the sport by seeing who the TRUE top 200 are and for the well-being of the lower level players as they are breaking through the cracks.

The average age in the top 100 is 27 years old. This means that players are peaking a lot later in their careers than they previously did but the path to ‘peaking’ has been made that much tougher with the current system in place. On average players are able to break through the top 200 after 4 years if they are good enough and if they are able to overcome the financial barriers. The percentage of players that break through are extremely small as it is, why make it even smaller?
Increasing the prize money at the lower levels won’t take anything away from the top players who were able to break through (with a deep pocket or not), they have earned every bit of it. But it will make this sport a lot more attractive at a Professional level and improve thousands of players lives across the world.

Most players quit after their first year or two. Many quit because its not the easiest career path but the ones that stay out there and increase their rankings on a yearly basis have to quit too because they run out of funds. Many of these players are on track (according to statistics) to the top 200. These are the players that the system needs to change for. Tennis will always have guys ranked 500-2000 that may never break through, thats a fact. But why cut the changes from the players who had the potential but ran out of money before their time…
A recap of the benefits:

  • Top players aren’t affected
  • Lower level players who have what it takes are able to play for the ‘required’ time given to break through
  • The ATP has its TRUE top 200

What I mean by ‘True’ is that there are a lot of players that would have been able to make it to the top 200 (maybe not the top 20 but part of the ELITE players in the top 200), if they were able to play for longer.

Due to the amount the game has changed over the years the system needs to allow players to play for at least 4 years on average. If you don’t make it by then its your decision to continue or not but at least you were able to give yourself a good chance. Although a very small percentage of players, there is no doubt in my mind that the top 200 would have seen many difference faces over the past 10 years if there was a different system in place.

The question is how much (%) will they need to increase the prize money in the lower levels to make this difference? The ITF effects the ATP and vise versa but who makes the call to change the system? They don’t seem to work together. So, how do we approach this situation in the best way possible and to who?

I am not here to tell the ATP or the ITF how to run their organization/federation, neither will I try. I am simply asking them to REVIEW the price money system and try come up with a solution that will make sense for them and the players.

Click here to view the prize money breakdown on the Futures and Challengers Tour

1601140_411691132297035_1629166834_nHave a great weekend, cheers