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Volume 24 No. 157

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The ATP Tour Board of Directors approved changes to the
     format and structure of the Tour beginning in 2000.  The
     moves, approved at the ATP World Championships in Germany,
     look to simplify the ranking system by implementing a
     calendar year point system based on 18 events and include a
     reduction of Top Tier tournaments from nine to seven; player
     requirements to participate in the seven Top Tier events and
     four Grand Slam tournaments; a rotation of the ATP World
     Championships -- currently held in Hannover, Germany -- and
     a bonus pool based on participation in Tour events.  The new
     plan will enable the ATP Tour to package domestic and
     international TV and marketing rights for all Top Tier
     events, as the Tour's domestic and international TV
     partnerships all expire after the '99 season.  ESPN holds
     the domestic rights to the Tour (THE DAILY).
          MORE DETAILS: The ATP Tour Championships will remain in
     Hannover through '99.  The event will then move to a new
     venue each year.  ATP VP/Communications Peter Alfano told
     THE DAILY that the Tour can "take the event to where it will
     help us to market the game.  Asia is a great example." 
     Alfano added that the Tour would like to work with the Grand
     Slam Cup Committee to potentially merge the Tour
     Championships with the Grand Slam Cup, that is played in
     September in Munich.  He also added that a decision has yet
     to be made as to which two Top Tier events will be relegated
     to second tier status.  Alfano stressed that the Tour's new
     structure would aid sponsors looking to acquire domestic and
     international sponsor rights and be affiliated with all Top
     Tier and Grand Slam events and the Tour would like to secure
     several umbrella sponsors for the entire series. 
          WORKING IN TANDEM: The ATP Tour is in talks with the
     WTA Tour to unify the seven Top Tier events, with a combined
     season finale.  ATP Tour Chair Mark Miles said that the Tour
     is "flexible" and will work with the WTA Tour in hopes of
     reaching an agreement.  On Sunday, WTA Tour CEO Anne Person
     Worcester said that "we're certainly open to proposals from
     the ATP and will look at them, provided that they are
     consistent with our own goal of strengthening women's tennis
     as its own product. ... It's only logical that the men and
     women would share equally in prize money increased from day
     one of combining events" (THE DAILY).  
          MORE TENNIS: In Washington, Bud Collins wrote a special
     contribution on the state of the game in which he listed his 
     solutions to challenges facing the game.  Among them:  Merge
     the ATP and WTA into the Association of Professional Tennis
     and appoint a commissioner or commission to manage and
     market the sport; change the long schedule to make 20 "top"
     events; and better PR with an open door policy to the locker
     rooms (WASHINGTON POST, 11/23)....New WTA Tour title
     sponsors include Toyota (Tokyo), Samsung (Korea), adidas
     (Sydney), Czech-based auto manufacturer SKODA (Prague) and
     Latin American health care provider Colsanitas (Bogota) (WTA
     Tour)....Officials at the Phoenix/ATP Tour World Doubles
     Championships said that 25,265 tickets were sold for the
     five-day event, "about 4,500 more than last year."  In
     Hartford, Greg Garber writes that "attendance was probably
     closer to 15,000.  About 10,000 of those were there for the
     semifinals and finals" (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/25)....Billie
     Jean King announced that a 25th anniversary celebration of
     her "Battle of the Sexes" vs. Bobby Riggs will be held next
     year at Hartford's Phoenix World Doubles event.  But Phoenix
     Home Life Mutual Chair Bob Fiondella said the event's format
     had not been decided (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/23).

          DISNEY SET TO ACQUIRE WPVA?  Walt Disney "is in serious
     talks to acquire" the WPVA, according to a report in AD AGE. 
     AD AGE: "At least one sports marketing executive familiar
     with the situation said the deal has been completed, but ABC
     executives said talks are still ongoing" (AD AGE, 11/24).
          NOTES: Indianapolis Motor Speedway has become part of
     the Int'l Race of Champions series, joining tracks at
     Daytona, FL; Fontana, CA and Brooklyn, MI.  The IROC will
     race at IMS July 31, the day before the Brickyard 400 (STAR-
     NEWS, 11/25)...The AFL's Anaheim Piranhas have ceased
     operation.  The league is reviewing options with respect to
     new ownership (AFL)....The CISL Portland Pride withdrew from
     the league but will work with the league to pursue an
     alternative to keep the team in operation (Mult., 11/20).

          The NBA's early-season attendance was examined by Rob
     Parker of NEWSDAY, who wrote, "All you have to do is look
     around the NBA these days.  Not even the great NBA spin
     doctors can hide this fact: NBA attendance is down in
     several cities and hope for a rebound looks bleak."  
     Parker: "Fans seem to be deciding that the game they have
     been brainwashed to believe is fantastic, simply isn't,
     anymore.  For sure, the reality of commissioner David
     Stern's watered-down league has finally sunk in. ... The
     reason?  It's simple.  There are too many bad teams in this
     league.  Too much expansion has eroded the talent level,
     making many games both uncompetitive and boring to watch."  
     Parker added that attendance is also affected in some
     markets because "the prices at NBA games are outrageous, the
     average ticket now is up to $36.32.  It's a miracle there
     are any kids in the stands" (NEWSDAY, 11/24).   

          At a New York Bar Association legal forum last week,
     NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NHL Commissioner Gary
     Bettman and NBA Commissioner David Stern were asked about
     the leadership void at MLB, and according to NEWSDAY's Joe
     Gergen both Bettman and Tagliabue "downplayed the lack of an
     independent commissioner."  Bettman: "I think it's too easy
     to dump on baseball."  Tagliabue: "I think (the role of
     commissioner) can be given too much importance.  The
     challenges we face go far beyond one person or one group of
     persons. ... I think the commissioner issue is overplayed by
     a lot of people."  But Stern countered, "[W]e're being too
     kind. ... We're in a time when the CEO increasingly is
     expected to set the direction, to look at the big picture. 
     You need someone to worry on a full-time basis, to deal with
     consumers, shareholders and every aspect of the sport.  It's
     a good ideal to have somebody in charge" (NEWSDAY, 11/23).