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).