SBD/25/Leagues Governing Bodies

CHAMPIONS TOUR LOOKS TO GAIN CORPORATE HELP TO FORGE AHEAD

      The Champions Tennis Tour, the 35-and-over men's circuit
founded in '93 by former ProServ President & Co-Founder Ray
Benton and Jimmy Connors, is in the midst of their most
successful season.  Benton and Connors began Net Assets to manage
and promote the Champions Tour, and it has overseen the growth
from three events in '93 to 12 events this year, including their
first international stop in Moscow last April.  The Tour, which
features Connors, Bjorn Borg, and Guillermo Vilas, has
established itself in small venues by stressing a fan-friendly
environment, with relaxed access to players for fans and sponsors
alike.  The recent Citibank Champions event in Westchester, NY,
drew a record attendance of 34,000 people over the five-day
event.
     THE GOLF COMPARISON:  Benton told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY
that he and Connors formed the Tour "because we had seen what the
Senior PGA had done and we thought we could capture some of the
success the Senior PGA had caught."  Although it is the model,
senior golf also poses the greatest threat to the Champions Tour.
Benton says golf is "so hot right now, and such a high proportion
of corporate executives play golf, that it has been a challenge
to get their attention for tennis."  Although they currently have
presenting sponsor U.S. News & World Report, along with Citibank,
Coopers & Lybrand, and John Nuveen & Co. among others, Benton
said his main challenge has been generating corporate interest.
Roger Williams, a contributing editor to TENNIS magazine, praises
the Tour, but says sponsorship dollars are "very very tough for
tennis these days."  Williams:  "The bloom is off the rose in
that regard.  I know that they had great difficulty getting an
umbrella sponsor."  Benton said companies are less generous with
their marketing dollars than in the past, but stressed the Tour
is "doing fine.  But we can always do better. ... Tennis has
bottomed out.  It is on its way back."
     WORD FROM THEIR SPONSORS:  Karen Scott Happer, Tournament
Director for the Citibank Champions event, has worked in tennis
for over twenty years including the Australian Open, and said she
has never been affiliated on a project with "such excellent value
for the money."  Happer: "If you are a sponsor I can genuinely
say to you that a half dozen players are going to be coming to
your cocktail party tonight.  I can honestly say ... you are
going to have a clinic for over an hour with a Champions Tour
professional working with your 20 kids."
     TV TIME:  Liberty's Prime Sports covers each event through
their multi-year TV deal.  Benton said their "main breakthrough"
was ABC's telecast of "The Challenge" held in May in Pebble
Beach.  Benton, on the ABC telecast:  "We did a 1.8 on a Sunday
afternoon against the NBA playoffs.  We hope to move it to June
next year and get away from the NBA, and I think we will do
well."
     THE FUTURE:  Looking ahead to the year 2000, Benton sees 20
events, with 26-man draws and a minimum of $250,000 in prize
money, along with 10-15 smaller satellite events, three or four
events on national TV, and a major event at the end of the year.
Benton said they will keep the venues small, and doesn't foresee
sites with capacity greater than 5,000.  Roger Williams likes the
Tour and commends the quality of play:  "The guys are trying
hard, and most are in shape.  Benton and Connors made sure of
that."   But to succeed, TENNIS Magazine's Williams believes it
will "require very astute marketing ... If Ray Benton can't do
it, it can't be done.  It has to have big names, the McEnroe's,
Lendl's and others to join. ... Nostalgia is a very big part of
the attraction here.  The big question is what will happen when
Connors isn't there" (THE DAILY).
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