Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who Is That Man Behind the Curtain?

by Savannah

I found this article by Matt Cronin posted on menstennisforums.com
There was not a lot of commentary about it - most fans were too busy with the Hermitage 3+1, but I think this is a very interesting look at just what is going on with the ATP right now and why. The link to the entire article is Here but I'll post some excerpts and then comment.

For some odd reason, there's a misconception out there it's the players who have the most say on major tour issues. They don't and haven't had a significant impact in quite some time...

But let's be really serious here about who hired de Villiers in the first place: the tournament directors, who received, in my not some humble opinion, a rubber stamp for the players. You didn't think that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Ivan Ljubicic had time to conduct extensive job interviews, did you?

That doesn't mean that de Villiers is completely beholden to the TDs, but when he takes a look at the other six members of the ATP Board of Directors, he knows who is cutting his paychecks and where the power lies. Currently, it lies with the TDs and the major sports agencies.

de Villiers has one vote, as do tournament reps Charlie Pasarell (the Indian Wells owner who is certainly one of the most powerful men in the sport), Auckland Tennis CEO Graham Pearce and Monte Carlo TD Zeljko Franulovic (back to him later). The players selected super agent Perry Rogers (Andre Agassi's agent), Jacco Eltingh and Iggy Jovanovic. I'll give the players two strong votes in former doubles standout Eltingh and Iggy, who used to be a communications official. But that's it. Rogers understand the players concerns, but he's a business guy first and is likely looking at profit as the primary motive. Plus, he's American and sees more potential in keeping four strong Masters Series in North America (Indian Wells, Miami, Cincy and Canada), than he does in saving Hamburg's or Monte Carlo's TMS status (although maybe Steffi Graf is trying to convince him otherwise.)

I'm not sure how the vote broke down when the board voted on de Villiers recommendation for the 2009 calendar – which was to downgraded Monte Carlo and Hamburg, add Shanghai and move Madrid to the spring – but my guess is that Franulovic balked in a big way and stormed out, de Villiers and the two other tournament directors said fine, and so did Rogers. That's' enough votes, folks, regardless of what Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and ATP Player Council president Ivan Ljubicic asked their player reps to do.

Look, if the players want to make the ATP a "player organization," then they have to get the tiebreaking vote on board of directors. I don't believe that they've ever had that on a consistent basis from their CEO, so they are sitting clay pigeons when it comes to major issues like the calendar, unless they force their CEO to the wall, which they have done this week.

Now, when they have embarrassed De Villers publicly with players like Ljubicic saying "ET doesn't understand tennis," they bring out a big stick by essentially saying that we are not buying into your calendar and you can take your mandated tournaments and shove them into your racket bag.

That's the power that they do have … which is not show up where they don't want to play.
Just imagine how happy Shanghai is going to be if most of the top competitors don't go. Guess who's going to get an earful and a request for a major refund - de Villiers.

According to the Daily Telegraph's excellent Mark Hodgkinson, de Villiers told Federer, Ljubicic et al that's he's willing to be flexible and maybe, just maybe, they will reconsider letting Monte Carlo keeps its status. But Hamburg still appears to be in real trouble.

My conclusions? The player reps on the board have absolutely no power whatsoever. The Americans, and the man from Auckland plus ET form the majority block. The one European tour director is reduced to allegedly "storming out" leaving his fellow board members to do, and vote, as they please. The man who should be the swing vote, Perry Rogers, votes with the Passarell block which should come as no surprise to any adult in the business world. He runs a sports agency not a not for profit group.

There were overflowing crowds at Monte Carlo all week. A full house is guaranteed for Rome. But the Americans are only concerned with making sure their Masters Events become the only game in town. Indian Wells, Cincinnatti, Canada and Miami are going to stay unless something drastic happens. It will take more than a united front by the European players and TD's to change this. The Board will argue profit while not mentioning that the American and Canadian stadiums are bigger than many of those in Europe. Tennis.com is already hyping Wimbledon while the players are on the Road to Roland Garros, a Grand Slam Americans have been denigrating ever since Pete Sampras decided clay was beneath him.

Yes the people behind Hamburg and Monte Carlo have filed suits against the ATP in the American state of Delaware but it's too soon to tell how that particular deck will be stacked.

So while the fans were celebrating the coming together of the top men in the world, neither of whom is American, The Powers That Be were smiling in their club chairs and puffing on their Cohibas. I for one don't see this ending well.

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