SBD/October 23, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Allaster Discusses WTA's Search For Global Partner, Potential Championships Sites

Allaster plans to expand the WTA Championships into a seven-day event
It has been a “frenetic phase as the WTA continues its thus-far unsuccessful search for a lead global partner to replace Sony Digital, expands its tournament lineup in Asia and South America and launches a formal bid process to choose the next site of the WTA Championships,” according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. Istanbul’s three-year run as host city for the Championships is set to end next year, and the city “does not plan to renew.” WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster “expects the final pool of candidates for the 2014 season and beyond to come from Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.” She "hopes to announce the winner early next year, wants a five-year deal and plans to expand the year-end tournament into a seven-day event with three to four more days of prologue.” Allaster in a Q&A last week discussed the Championships and other issues facing the WTA. Below are excerpts from the Q&A:

Q: How important is the WTA Championships to your tour?
Allaster: This represents 40 percent of our net operating revenues. It is more important to our operating budget than the sponsorship. So it’s mission critical and obviously it’s also our largest marketing platform and that’s key in the sponsorship equation as well.

Q: With your longer offseason for recovery, you have more freedom than the men seem to have in terms of the location of your tour championships. What’s your preference?
Allaster: There’s no doubt if the finances are there and the facilities are there and the operator and government support -- and it’s got to be government backed -- but if all of those factors are ticked, it sure would be nice to go to a market where you don’t have WTA tennis.

Q: What about your sponsorship situation?
Allaster: I remain optimistic that we will announce a minimum of one, maybe two, regional partnerships for 2013. … There are still a couple active conversations on 2013 for the lead global partner, but I think as we are getting closer to really companies making their marketing decisions it’s a high hurdle for 2013.

Q: You’ve been involved in this arena for a long time now. How frustrating is this on a personal level? And does it reflect wider market difficulties or some of the challenges women’s sports are facing in general in sports like soccer?
Allaster: I do think that combined with the world economy, the Olympic Games and euro definitely sort of sidelined conversations we might have otherwise had with some brands because they are preoccupied (N.Y. TIMES, 10/22).

MONEY TALKS: In London, Neil Harman notes the leading eight players in the women’s game “met officials of the four grand-slam tournaments to hear what they can expect from next year’s windfalls.” Tennis Australia is “proposing a payout of AU$28,000 to those who do not survive a single round” at the Australian Open. Tennis player Maria Sharapova before the presentations began said, “I don’t know if I agree with a raise for a first-round loss. I think that compensation as you win more rounds is right, but I’m not sure about the first rounds.” Harmon writes there has been “underlying controversy at the heart of the continuing hike in grand-slam prize money because several male players are indignant that the WTA Tour has ridden on the coat-tails of the ATP Tour in the debate for a greater share.” Sharapova, when asked if she would have taken a call from ATP Player Council President Roger Federer to discuss a combined strategy, said, “If he wanted to, I would absolutely. Why not? At the end of the day we’re all tennis players, we all have the same agenda and we all want to be compensated for what we do” (LONDON TIMES, 10/23).
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