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Volume 24 No. 159

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Tennis Australia today said that it was “confident players would not boycott the Australian Open over a prize money disagreement, but it was taking the threat seriously,” according to Madeleine Coorey of the AFP. ATP World Tour players reportedly were “considering a boycott of January's tournament in a bid to gain a higher percentage of Grand Slam event revenues for themselves.” At issue is the “pay of lower-ranked players who often exit in the first round.” Players this year were paid US$21,600 for a first round defeat. Australian Open Tournament Dir Craig Tiley said, "It's not necessarily just a Grand Slam problem, it's an all-sport problem.” He added that it was “unfair to target the Australian Open, which this year offered the biggest prize money pot in Grand Slam tennis” at US$27M (AFP, 8/27). In London, Barry Flatman wrote at the “top of the agenda at a mandatory meeting” for all ATP World Tour players in N.Y. Saturday night was "the growing pressure to stage a mass boycott of the Australian Open." The ATP reportedly is "considering staging an alternative event, almost certainly in Dubai, if moves are not made to give the players a higher percentage of tournament revenue," which currently stands below 20% (LONDON TIMES, 8/26). In Sydney, Darren Walton notes the players are “unhappy about the discrepancy between the tennis elite and fringe competitors who make 128-man grand slam draws possible.” Tiley “understands their gripe and says the Australian Open will consider a range of changes to ensure lower-ranked players are compensated, including increasing prize money for those who lose before the quarter-finals” (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/27). Tiley said, "We are the first to say that for tennis to be a viable career, the top 250 players need to make a good living" (Melbourne HERALD SUN, 8/27).

GOLDEN AGE: In a special to USA TODAY, Douglas Robson in a sports section cover story writes the men's game is “in the midst of its own so-called golden age” led by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. But “how much longer can this period of excellence last?” Federer is “31, when tennis skills generally decline,” and Nadal is “plagued by chronic tendinitis in his knees.” Although Djokovic is “still in his prime,” he has “fallen off from his dominant form of last year.” Andy Roddick’s coach Larry Stefanki said, "There's been a lot of special eras." He calls the designation golden era "overused." Robson notes “most agree, however, that this is a unique time,” as tennis has “never been deeper.” The best players have been “popping out memorable matches like a PEZ dispenser.” Tennis Channel analyst and former ATPer Justin Gimelstob said, "In terms of the quality and what it takes to win points and tournaments and Grand Slams -- it's a new level. This is the apex, right here" (USA TODAY, 8/27).

BEST FORMAT? On Long Island, John Jeansonne notes the “idea of a more compact best-of-three-sets format in men's Grand Slam tennis was volleyed around a bit this summer (to no clear conclusion).” Two “respected stewards of tennis conscience,” Billie Jean King and journalist/commentator Bud Collins, both are “on record favoring best-of-three play.” Collins would have the men “play best-of-three until major quarterfinals, then best-of-five.” King has said, "All tennis should be best-of-three. I want the players around for longer careers" (NEWSDAY, 8/27). In N.Y., Ray Krueger notes there is “one way to put this issue to rest: let the women play best-of-five.” But the extra time on the court “raises concern over injuries and wear and tear on players” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27).

The NHL and NHLPA will resume negotiations tomorrow in N.Y. for a new CBA, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly expressed both optimism and frustration when discussing the league’s goals for the meeting. “We certainly hope to engage and find some degree of traction in finding a solution on the economics of the Player system moving forward,” Daly wrote in an e-mail. “To this point, despite repeated attempts, we have not been able to find common ground upon which to build toward a resolution.” The first meeting tomorrow is expected to be among the groups’ lead execs: Daly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. Daly wrote that it was “uncertain at this point” if the league would present a new proposal to the union. “That’s something we will determine between now and tomorrow’s meeting,” he wrote (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).

REVENUE SHARING A MAJOR POINT OF CONTENTION: In Columbus, Aaron Portzline noted revenue sharing “has surfaced as a point of contention” during the labor meetings. The league has offered to increase the revenue-sharing pool to $190M, up from the current $150M. However, the league perhaps more importantly has “hinted that it plans to ‘relax’ the many restrictions it put in place when revenue sharing was implemented in 2005.” Those restrictions include clubs not qualifying “if they play in a market with more than 2.5 million TV homes,” maintaining an average home attendance of 14,000 and maintaining a “revenue growth rate on par with the rest of the league.” Portzline: “It’s unclear to what extent the NHL plans to relax those restrictions, but they were put in place at the behest of wealthy owners, to insure they weren’t simply giving money to clubs who weren’t trying to be competitive” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/26). Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse wrote if NHLPA members “know anything of labor history in sports, they will hang with Fehr -- not even agreeing to give away snow in the wintertime, until they get a deal where they take a much smaller hit and let the owners solve their issues.” Reusse: “The union members should keep in mind that Fehr has negotiated against, and beaten, tougher foes than Bettman” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/26).

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote Flyers Chair Ed Snider is “one of the strongmen” on the NHL BOG, but fans can “excuse the NHLPA for raising an eye about part of the NHL’s platform -- five-year limits on contracts -- when Snider’s hockey operations department is tossing around long-term deals like Frisbees.” The team earlier this month signed LW Scott Hartnell and RW Wayne Simmonds to six-year deals, while the Predators matched the Flyers’ offer sheet to D Shea Weber for a 14-year contract. Shinzawa: “As one of the board’s most influential members, Snider’s approval of long-term contracts and a financial straitjacket on a small-market Nashville club don’t exactly follow the company line” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/26).

The PGA Tour “is considering taking over the struggling Canadian Tour,” and it “could be in American hands by this fall,” according to Jeff Brooke of GOLF CANADA. If the purchase takes place, the Canadian Tour “would be renamed the PGA Tour of Canada and gain not only financial stability but the clout of one of the world’s most powerful (and richest) sports brands.” The PGA Tour gave an "operating loan" of C$700,000 to the Canadian Tour last year and has "deepened the relationship this year by offering assistance in sponsor and tournament development." A takeover "wouldn’t be so much about rescuing the Canadian Tour ... as it would be about the PGA Tour finding a new source of players and another route for them to rise through the golf ranks.” Graduates from the PGA Tour’s Q-school now enter the second-tier Tour, and the Canadian Tour "could become a third tier, with the best performers advancing to the” The Canadian Tour “could also dovetail with the PGA Tour’s new LatinoAmerica Tour, another third-tier circuit." Players could "compete in Latin America in the spring and fall and in Canada during the summer” (, 8/26).