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"REAL SPORTS" EXAMINES STEFFI GRAF'S OFF-COURT TROUBLES
Published January 14, 1997
HBO's "Real Sports" examined the tax evasion case against PETER GRAF, father of STEFFI GRAF, as his trial in Germany winds down. HBO's Jim Lampley noted that during its investigation of Grafs' finances in '94, German tax prosecutors compiled a list of Steffi's income from tournaments over the years, which included appearance fees of more than $1M. Lampley added that "several" of these tournaments were officially sanctioned by the WTA Tour. BOOK OF RULES: WTA Tour regulations "specifically forbid such guaranteed payments." According to those rules, a player receiving an appearance fee could be subjected to "hefty fines" and a suspension of up to three months. Corel WTA Tour CEO ANNE PERSON WORCESTER sent HBO a letter reading in part: "The Corel WTA Tour continues to utilize both its internal and external resources to monitor the Peter Graf tax evasion trial ... and determine the validity of the allegations regarding appearance fees allegedly paid to players. To date, the tour has still not been able to obtain, or has [not] been presented with any substantiated evidence, of appearance money being paid to any tour player." Chief trial prosecutor HUBERT JOBSKI said during the investigation of Graf's finances, it "surfaced ... that certain organizations have paid appearance fees. They were officially declared as appearance fees." But, according to Lampley, no one from the WTA has contacted Jobski regarding that information. Tennis Week Publisher GENE SCOTT: "It is absolute nonsense to think that [Graf] would have been paid those amounts of money were it not as an incentive to show up in the tournament. ... Without admitting that there is a problem, how can they [WTA Tour] come up with a solution?" PLENTY MORE READING: KLAUS BRINKBAUMER, a writer for the German magazine Der Spiegel, co-wrote a book outlining "how the Grafs' allegedly bilked the German Government out of millions." Brinkbaumer, on the WTA's reluctancy to investigate: "Everybody in women's tennis wants to keep Steffi Graf on the tour. So there is nobody in the world of women's tennis who wants to go after this, or who wants to find out what's going on." After the segment, Lampley told Bryant Gumbel that if the WTA Tour knew about the fee, "they probably preferred to believe that the money was being paid to Steffi as promotional money for services related to the tournaments, and if they knew more than that then it was probably in their best interest to look the other way." Lampley added, "This is a very difficult time for the WTA Tour. They are just finishing their first year of their new sponsorship deal with Corel. In that first year, it is known that Corel is not happy that Graf played [Monica] Seles one time, and ...it never happened in a WTA Tour event. [GABRIELA] SABATINI and [KIMIKO] DATE, two top-ten players, have just retired. Seles is heading for probable shoulder surgery. So to lose Steffi Graf for a long period of time to suspension would be a critically damaging blow to the WTA Tour" ("Real Sports," HBO, 1/13). WTA: PERSON WORCESTER, in response to the report: "We are actively monitoring the Peter Graf tax evasion trial and have attempted to obtain documents. But the German system doesn't allow disclosure of documents. Our course of action will be decided after the trial" (USA TODAY, 1/13).