Thursday, May 9, 2013

The WTA Chooses Singapore

by Savannah

In one of the worst kept secrets in recent memory the WTA made a huge announcement about the location of its YEC for the next five years. From 2014 - 2018 the women's year end championship will be played in Singapore. The city state won out over Monterrey, Mexico and Tianjian, China and will have a brand spanking new sports complex in which to stage the event.

Stacey Allaster, in an interview with the New York Times Christopher Clarey is trying to emphasize the positive.

The WTA chief executive, Stacey Allaster, wanted an extended deal for the elite tournament, and she got it: a five-year agreement from 2014 through 2018.

That last figure is particularly important to an organization that still lacks a lead global sponsor after its lucrative, multiyear deal with Sony Digital ended in 2012.

“Well, look, I definitely am sleeping a lot better right now,” said Allaster in a telephone interview from Singapore. “These championships are 35 to 40 percent of our net operating revenues.”

While declining to give a specific figure, Allaster said that this was the “largest and most significant championships deal” in the WTA’s history and that it was also worth more annually than any previous deal for the championships.

With the previous high-dollar mark a reported $14 million per year in Istanbul for three years, the Singapore deal would be worth in excess of $70 million.

“If we look at the prize-money commitment, rights-fee commitment, international marketing commitment and of course operational budget, it’s an incredible investment that Singapore has made in women’s tennis,” she said.

The move to Singapore is strategic for both parties.

By bringing its championships into the heart of Asia for the first time, the WTA wants to consolidate its finances as well as its role in a still-emerging but clearly vital sports region. Meanwhile, Singapore, a nation of about five million with one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, wants to promote itself as a regional sports hub. A major multisports complex is nearing completion in the city.

Singapore, for the moment, has no player with a WTA ranking in singles or doubles, but it is eager to promote sports participation at home, particularly among women.

“We continue to go east,” Allaster said. “I think it’s no coincidence that two of the three candidate finalists came from Asia. It shows the growth potential and aspirations of these markets to use world-class sport to drive growth and platforms for participation.”

The season-ending championships, won by Serena Williams in 2012, bring together the top eight singles players, and with the move to Singapore, the doubles field will increase from four teams to eight. Prize money will increase to $6.5 million in 2014 from $6 million this year, and the event will expand from six days of competition to seven. It will be staged at Singapore Indoor Stadium, which has an approximate capacity of up to 12,000 but will be configured for fewer fans initially.

“We’re looking at 7,500 to 8,000 to start,” Allaster said. “We want to make sure it’s full, provide positive energy for the athletes. In time, it will grow.”

All emphasis is mine.

At least at the end she's being realistic (honest) and saying that they will not fill the arena. Hell I doubt that there will be the fan support the WTA got in Istanbul where almost every seat was routinely occupied by a paying customer. The arena is not going to be full unless like many award shows they hire seat warmers. It's no secret that the WTA is the weaker of the two professional tennis associations and if the ATP can't fill stadiums what will the women, who even in combined events see fans ignoring their matches for mens matches, do in Singapore?

The WTA fan base is in Europe and the Americas. I understand that the money will help the WTA stabilize it's finances but as far as growing the sport? I don't think so. The time difference is too great for fans of women's tennis in the Americas and Europe so the potential to draw new fans is minimal. And isn't the International group championship in Malaysia? It looks as if the WTA isn't really interested in growing women's tennis but is in desperate need to shore up its finances.

In all honesty I hope that I'm wrong and that screaming fans fill the seats to watch the top women in the world play each other. There is nothing more depressing than a tennis match held in an empty arena.


Cleoella said...

I am a Singapore citizen and I have to agree with you completely. No way is the fan support here even vaguely comparable to any other country. The media coverage is shamefully little (Grand slams receive about half a page in our sports papers), though no doubt it will increase when this event is brought here. But that will ONLY be because it is an event held in Singapore, and not because of any true love for the sport. The average person on the street probably doesn't even know who Serena Williams is - that's how bad it is. As a tennis fan I'd expect to be ecstatic that an actual tennis tournament is being held in my country, but instead I wish the WTA had not chosen Singapore. I'm already cringing at the thought of all the empty seats and I feel ashamed on behalf of my country. At the Clash of the Continents exhibition a few months back, the support and enthusiasm was so weak that it was truly embarassing. Please, take the tournament somewhere else where it can receive the appreciation it deserves.

Savannah said...

Cleoella I'm sorry I took so long to post your response.

I'm also sorry that you're confirming my worst fears about the choice of Singapore.

Maybe if the WTA tries really hard to push the event more than three people will come out to watch the women play?