The ATP Tour Board of Directors is in the process of rushing through a vote to secure a 30-year deal that will provide 30 year licenses to the Masters 1000 tournaments and aggregate even more rights, including player data, under the ATP Media umbrella. Recently it came to light that a private equity firm called CVC Capital Partners is considering a minority stake worth $600 million in ATP Media.
What does it mean for the players? Nobody but the ATP knows, and they don’t want to provide details. The ATP is negotiating backroom deals in secret to their own advantage and it’s time the players have a true seat at the table.
The PTPA wants to work with the ATP and agrees with the ATP that the sport needs to generate revenue commensurate with its fan base and is in full support of a new plan that grows the sport. As the ATP points out in its 30-year plan, “tennis ranks 4th in popularity worldwide, with more than 1 billion fans globally. However, it generates only 1.3% of the total value of global sports media rights.”
The 30-year plan says repeatedly that the sport must shift its mindset away from “self-interest” and toward the collective good of the sport. Yet in the same breath the ATP admits that “In the short-term, the plan will inevitably benefit some more than others.”
To illustrate this point, one must look no further than the opportunity for the tournaments, the ATP, and ATP Media. The 30-year deal provides the tournaments with lucrative opportunities to form long-term sponsor relationships and maximize revenue. The plan seeks to increase the value of ATP Media (owned by the tournaments and not the players) and may aggregate certain player rights to do so. What the players get in return for their rights remains unknown.
Theoretically, creating more revenue for the tournaments is a good thing for all. But, once again, the players are being told to wait to fully understand how this plan will affect their careers, and how the players may benefit from the plan. Those that have sacrificed the most are the ones being told they must sacrifice even more with no relief in sight.
In 2019 the professional tennis market (ATP/WTA/Grand Slam) generated $2.2 billion in revenue. Overall, the players made just 17.5% of this revenue. Comparatively, professional golfers make 22.68% of the PGA/Euro PGA revenue, baseball and football players make 47% of the MLB and NFL revenue respectively, and players in the NHL, NBA, Bundesliga, and English Premier League make 50% or more of their respective revenues.
A smart approach is one that values the players and seeks to ensure that players are adequately compensated. This will effectively raise the tide for the entire sport because it will result in better competition up and down the worldwide rankings, which in turn will generate more fan interest…and more revenue for all.