SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Martin: IMTA could hurt ATP’s sponsorship sales

The new International Men's Tennis Association could potentially hurt the ATP's ability to get sponsors and erode its fan base, ATP Player Council President Todd Martin said.

"Why would a sponsor want to support a sport in which there are a bunch of players who want to break off?" Martin asked rhetorically. "If they signed a five-year deal, they wouldn't be 100 percent confident [the ATP] would be the same thing they agreed to in the first place."

But IMTA spokesman Dan Wasserman scoffed at the comments.

"The notion that the effective representation of athletes would lead to the Armageddon of the sport is alarmist and nonsense," he said. "The fact that the emergence of strong players associations has also coincided with enormous spurts in the growth and popularity of those sports should put that rumor to rest."

The IMTA was launched in March by players who wanted more information on the business of the ATP and more of a voice in the running of the organization.

The ATP board is made of three members representing ATP players, three members representing the ATP tournaments and ATP CEO Mark Miles. The three player members are appointed by the ATP Player Council. Martin told SportsBusiness Journal that he believes the IMTA wants to replace the ATP Player Council.

"I think their ultimate goal is to overtake the world of men's professional tennis," Martin said last week in a telephone interview from the French Open. "I think they are becoming more and more aware that is not possible. Then their next option is to represent the players within the ATP and change the format of representation, and I am still fairly confident that won't happen.

"Then the third [option] is to be sort of just looming and a bit of a thorn in the side of those of us who are trying to be constructive."

Tensions between the IMTA and the ATP Player Council escalated last week when the IMTA announced that it had been invited to attend a Grand Slam Committee meeting in Paris. "IMTA representatives expect to begin discussing topics such as scheduling, governance and financial issues that impact the sport," the IMTA said in a press release.

Martin and Player Council vice president Todd Woodbridge fired back their own press release, stating: "The voice of players in dealing with the Grand Slams and other issues currently facing the game is the ATP player leadership elected by all ATP player members. We will not be deterred in pursuing our goal of achieving a fair investment in our sport from the Grand Slams."

The IMTA also released a list of 62 members of the group, including No.1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt.

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