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SBD Global/August 27, 2013/FinancePrint All
Two years ago, U.S. Open tournament referee Brian Earley’s "controversial decision to send some of the sport’s biggest names out to play on courts which they thought were dangerous set in train a sequence of events for which the Grand Slam tournaments are literally still paying," according to Paul Newman of the London INDEPENDENT. The following two years "have seen a remarkable shift in the balance of power." The Grand Slam tournaments "have thrown money not only at the players but also at their facilities." It is almost as if "they have been engaging in one-upmanship, matching or surpassing each other in terms of both their prize money and their determination not to fall behind their rivals with the spectacle they provide." U.S. Tennis Association officials "could barely hide their glee." This year’s men’s and women’s champions "will each receive cheques" for $2.6M, the "biggest in the sport’s history." The U.S. Open’s announcement on prize money "followed similar moves by the three other Grand Slam tournaments." The increases this year, at a time of global economic difficulties, "have been remarkable." The Australian Open, aware that there had been talk of a players’ strike, "set the benchmark by announcing a rise in prize money to $A30M ($27M), which at the time "was the biggest prize fund in history." The French Open followed by increasing its pot to €22M ($29M). The All England Club announced a "remarkable" 40% increase in prize money earlier this year. Meanwhile all four Grand Slam tournaments "are investing heavily in their facilities," the U.S. Open "having been the last to show their hand." Tennis Australia "is in the process of spending" A$363M ($328M) on a series of improvements to Melbourne Park, including a cover over Margaret Court Stadium, "which will give the tournament sliding roofs over three courts." Proposed changes at the French Open "are in a state of flux." The French federation "wants to expand into adjoining botanical gardens" -- at 21 acres Roland Garros is currently the smallest of the four Grand Slam sites -- but a tribunal earlier this year "found in favour of environmentalists who have campaigned against the proposals." Wimbledon "has not finalised its redevelopment programme," but is in the middle of a consultation process with regard to its “Master Plan.” The outline proposals "include a range of structural changes over the next 15 to 20 years, including a retractable roof over No. 1 Court and new locations for many outside courts" (INDEPENDENT, 8/25).