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    Andrea Gaudenzi On Constructing Up The Challenger Tour: ‘It is Very important To Tennis’ Success’ | ATP Tour

    One of many core concepts of ATP’s Strategic Plan is to strengthen the game’s premium product, on the elite stage. How do you view the Challenger Tour within the context of this imaginative and prescient?
    Let me begin by stating that the Challenger Tour is significant to tennis’ success. It’s the pathway to the ATP Tour with out which our sport can’t thrive. I do know first-hand simply how powerful competitors is at that stage, having performed many Challengers throughout my profession. I’ve the utmost respect for the gamers and for match promoters at that stage, who work extraordinarily onerous.

    On the subject of the variety of athletes supported financially, it’s true that tennis will not be on the identical stage as crew sports activities corresponding to soccer, American soccer or basketball. Enhancing monetary viability on the decrease ranges of tennis comes down to higher promotion and help by way of redistribution of revenues generated on the high. I want to spotlight that that is completely a precedence for the ATP and, importantly, we consider important progress could be made.

    We’ve got just lately created a brand-new devoted Challenger division throughout the ATP, to be headed up by Richard Glover, former CEO of Tennis South Africa. The division’s sole focus might be rising the game at that stage. This follows a full evaluation and monetary evaluation of the Challenger Tour final 12 months by ATP Administration, that checked out alternatives to restructure and improve funding. With help from our Board, our plan is to construct on these alternatives in 2022.

    Whereas the Challenger Tour has itself been a sustainable product for over 30 years, I’m assured this work will lead to important enhancements, together with elevated participant earnings.

    What are the basic variations between crew sports activities and particular person sports activities that explains the disparity within the variety of athletes which are supported?
    It comes right down to fan engagement. Workforce sports activities profit from having loyal followings, typically based mostly on location, even on the decrease ranges. Groups have the chance to play in entrance of their house followers for giant elements of the 12 months and construct a tribal following round a shared identification. It’s these followers who’re often shopping for tickets and merchandise, or watching on TV, that make the enterprise mannequin work. Against this, fan curiosity is extra star-driven in particular person sports activities.

    That mentioned, tennis generates important revenues and, along with golf, options among the many most profitable particular person sports activities on the planet. We’ve got greater than 1 billion followers – our problem, and our alternative, is to not solely entice new followers however to construct deeper engagement inside our present fan base.

    Photograph Credit score: Marta Magni/MEF Tennis Occasions
    Talking of golf, many level to that as the instance of a sport that manages to help way more gamers than tennis. What are your views on that?

    Firstly, it’s necessary to acknowledge that total revenues in golf are larger than in tennis. There are a number of causes for that. Nonetheless, in the case of distribution of prize cash inside golf there are similarities. About 70% of the prize cash within the PGA Tour goes to the Prime 100 gamers, which has similarities to our personal Tour. After all we wish our remaining 30% to go additional than it at present does. To try this we have to develop our revenues.

    Different particular person sports activities additionally provide a useful benchmark. Compared to sports activities corresponding to swimming, snowboarding, boxing and observe and subject, athlete compensation in tennis could be very wholesome each by way of variety of athletes and complete earnings.

    Rising our total revenues begins with specializing in the fan expertise. There may be a lot we will do to drive synergies and cut back fragmentation inside tennis, which causes ache factors for followers and worth leakage. The dialog about supporting the decrease ranges will grow to be a lot simpler if there may be incremental development on the high.

    Give us your macro evaluation of the Challenger Tour at the moment. What do you see as being elementary to success transferring ahead?
    In a typical 12 months the Challenger Tour options greater than 150 tournaments, providing roughly $12 million in prize cash. That cash solely goes thus far. Too few gamers are at present making a residing at that stage of the game.

    For this to vary in a significant method, the assorted our bodies in tennis have to work as a united entrance to make sure that income development on the high of our sport is redistributed to decrease ranges. This should occur in parallel to rising present income streams on the Challenger stage.

    We should additionally acknowledge that our sport can’t be anticipated to supply a livelihood for an infinite variety of gamers. A line must be drawn someplace. That call must be made collectively between the assorted organisations in our sport, and everybody in tennis – together with aspiring gamers – would stand to learn from having a clearer understanding of the place that line lies. After which it’s a case of continuous to strengthen earnings, alternatives and mobility for the subsequent class of gamers who’re at present unable to make a residing from skilled tennis.

    By way of calendar administration, sustaining a broad geographic unfold of Challenger occasions is essential. Native occasions are important for gamers to cut back journey prices. Accessing taking part in alternatives additionally creates a wholesome aggressive pathway to the ATP Tour, with expertise coming into the game from all throughout the globe.

    Some maintain the view that the Tour is concentrated on catering to the elite, high ranges of the game. Is that true?
    I believe you solely have to have a look at the final couple of years to see that’s merely not the case. The pandemic precipitated unprecedented monetary disruption throughout our sport, and it has been the highest gamers which have shouldered the majority of the prize cash reductions, as we focused the latter rounds of tournaments. The highest gamers and the ATP Participant Council deserve quite a lot of credit score for supporting this method.

    Conversely, we protected the sooner rounds and qualifying rounds, in addition to invested closely within the Challenger Tour to make sure that tournaments and taking part in alternatives had been maintained. In 2021 alone, we invested over $3,300,000 in COVID-related funding, along with the common Challenger funding we distribute on an annual foundation.

    Gamers ranked between 100-200 in singles truly earned on common 14% extra prize cash in 2021 than they did in 2019, previous to the pandemic. 147 tournaments passed off at Challenger stage in 2021 – down by solely 11 occasions in comparison with 2019. These numbers clearly exhibit our give attention to supporting the decrease ranges of tennis throughout this tough time.

    Trying long run, the Strategic Plan we put ahead in September 2020 units out a transparent imaginative and prescient for the game, whereby development on the high ought to strengthen the bottom of the pyramid within the type of elevated monetary help at decrease ranges. This help is a collective accountability and all the foremost entities in tennis have a job to play by working extra intently collectively.

    Photograph Credit score: Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar
    How does tennis view the steadiness between making certain sufficient gamers make a residing from the sport versus making certain that the highest gamers are pretty compensated for the numerous worth they generate?
    We’ve got a accountability to verify the highest gamers are properly compensated as they generate a lot of the leisure worth for followers at our premium occasions. Attending to the highest of any sport entails immense onerous work and dedication by athletes with no ensures of success. We need to ensure that throughout a 10-to-15-year profession these high performers have been adequately rewarded for making it to that stage and driving the leisure worth of our sport. The PGA’s just lately launched Participant Influence Programme, which rewards gamers that drive probably the most fan curiosity within the sport, reveals the identical mentality is mirrored in golf. We additionally can’t lose sight of our accountability to make sure gamers ranked round 50-120, who’re competing on the marquee occasions, are rewarded pretty.

    That mentioned, will we additionally see a case for distributing prize cash throughout a higher variety of gamers? Completely. When younger athletes are making the choice whether or not or to not pursue tennis professionally, this may have an effect on whether or not they view it as a viable profession choice. It might imply the distinction between a future famous person persevering with within the sport or not. This is only one of many explanation why prize cash will increase have been weighted to earlier rounds lately to assist with this and in the end present a sustainable pathway to the highest.

    Gamers and tournaments traditionally have been at odds over prize cash. The Strategic Plan proposes a brand new prize cash formulation – is there any replace on that and what distinction will that make?
    Our goal is evident: to align the pursuits of our gamers and tournaments in a good and clear method. This can imply that when one aspect of the membership succeeds, so does the opposite.

    We’re beginning by implementing a brand new prize cash mannequin on the ATP Masters 1000s, devised as a part of the ATP Strategic Plan, that has already come into impact from this 12 months. Beneath the mannequin, match earnings that exceed on-site Prize Cash throughout the class might be shared 50-50 between tournaments and gamers, contributing in the direction of a possible new Variable Bonus Pool that might be paid to the gamers on the finish of every 12 months.

    The formulation is predicated on a brand new rule that requires independently audited match financials. It is a game-changing development for our organisation, giving full monetary transparency to gamers for the primary time for the reason that inception of the Tour in 1990. It constitutes a serious breakthrough within the alignment of participant and match pursuits underneath the equal partnership of the ATP Tour.

    Since I took the Chairman function in January 2020, I’ve been unequivocal in saying that transparency and alignment of pursuits, the place everybody shares within the success of the game, are elementary necessities for our membership. They’re the foundations of a real partnership.

    Long run what’s going to be the largest driver of prize cash will increase throughout the game?
    We’ve got to begin by placing the followers first. Aggregation and centralisation are key to that. By pooling our media rights and going to market collectively, we have now the potential to handle followers’ ache factors and supply them with a greater expertise. We’ve got to open ourselves to new gross sales and distribution methods to create new and scalable sources of income that filter down by way of our ecosystem.

    One other factor might be rising the manufacturers of the gamers. We want followers to know and care concerning the story of greater than a handful of gamers so tennis has extra family names that may drive our sport. That is going to require important funding in advertising and marketing, media, content material manufacturing and know-how. We have to put money into brief type and off-court content material to serve youthful followers on social and digital platforms the place they’re most engaged and construct hype round tennis’ subsequent superstars.

    The excellent news is that tennis has a lot monetary upside. The last decade previous to the pandemic introduced report development, however the truth stays that we will do a significantly better job of specializing in the fan expertise. Get it proper, and development will comply with. Gamers in all phases of the pathway will stand to learn from that.

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