SBD/Issue 128/Leagues & Governing Bodies

ATP, WTA Chiefs Discuss Pros, Cons Of Merging Into One Tour

De Villiers Says ATP-WTA Merger
Would Be Conceptually Difficult
A merger between the ATP Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is a “monumental step forward tennis fans keep asking for,” but it is “not likely to happen any time soon,” according to Charles Bricker of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. WTA CEO Larry Scott said of a merger, "A lot of people in tennis believe it could be a very positive thing. Not just between the WTA and ATP, but with the Grand Slams and the ITF as well, to the degree that we can present a common face to the public." However, he added, "Like a lot of industries, sports tours aren't going to merge unless there is an impetus, and fortunately for tennis right now, things seem to be going very well." ATP Tour CEO Etienne de Villiers added of a merger, "In a perfect world, it's a good idea. ... But there are certain real business and economic issues that need to be discussed, and for that reason it's conceptually difficult. The way things stand, because of the difficulty that certain tournaments have, it wouldn't be an easy thing to do." Bricker notes there also would be "merger difficulties to overcome," including the "significant decision of who would be at the top of the bureaucratic pyramid." Bricker: "Is it Scott? Or is it Etienne de Villiers? ... Or is it someone from outside the tours, like [USTA CEO] Arlen Kantarian?" However, Sony Ericsson Open Tournament Dir Butch Buchholz, whose tourney hosts both men and women, said, "This sport needs to be under one roof. Our competitors are the other entertainment businesses, not each other. This is all so confusing to the public and fans. The WTA and ATP should be like the AFL and NFL. Merge" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/26).

STATE OF THE GAME: SI's Justin Gimelstob wrote of tennis' health the "most encouraging statistics come directly from the nuts and bolts of the tennis industry." Gimelstob: "Racket and tennis-ball sales have been on a sharp increase in the past few years, as has total play and participation in the game. Tennis is the only traditional sport to grow in participation during the past five years, a 10[%] increase, compared to the decline of other mainstream sports like football, baseball and basketball" (SI.com, 3/21).

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