French Open Tournament Dir Gilbert Ysern said the event plans to increase prize money "spectacularly" over the next four years, according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. While Ysern declined to give precise figures, he acknowledged “surprise at the magnitude of the U.S. Open prize-money move.” He said, “We’re going to be below the U.S. Open, but we’re on the same path.” Ysern added that the “emphasis would remain on increasing rewards for players who are eliminated in earlier rounds.” Clarey writes after increased purses for the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, it would “come as quite a surprise" if the other two Grand Slams did not make "commensurate increases.” The players are “now unquestionably on a roll," as they have "established precedent by conducting direct discussions with the Grand Slam leadership over prize money.” ATP BOD rep Justin Gimelstob said, “The French Open is in tremendous jeopardy of falling behind after what the U.S. Open and Australian Open have announced.” Clarey write the developments this year are “surprising and potentially game-changing if the players choose to use their leverage collectively and selectively on a number of issues.” Those include the “yearly calendar, the problematic Davis Cup team event, and even the format of the game itself in an increasingly physical era.”
LEADING ROLES: Outgoing ATP Exec Chair & President Brad Drewett has “played less of a role in the most recent negotiations because of serious illness," and others such as Gimelstob have “taken on larger, pivotal roles.” Gimelstob: “I won’t say it was fun or cordial, and it was incredibly stressful and angst-ridden and there were even times it got personal.” Though Player Council President Roger Federer’s “hands-on leadership has created occasional friction" with other top players, it has been "critical to projecting credibility to Grand Slam tournament leaders.” The USTA’s concessions “mean that the relationship between the tournament and the top men’s players -- increasingly testy in recent years -- could improve” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22).
BC Place Stadium in Vancouver will host the '15 FIFA Women's World Cup championship match in what will mark "the first World Cup soccer final on artificial turf," according to Monte Stewart of the CP. FIFA has "frowned on using artificial turf in major men's events and professional leagues, because of concerns about a greater risk of injury." But World Cup Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Sandra Gage said that the use of artificial turf "has not been an issue in the women's game." World Cup Organizing Committee member Steve Reed said of the 55,000-seat venue, "We wanted to maximize the number of participants, the number of people that are in the seats. BC Place obviously has that capacity." Canadian organizers and FIFA "made the decision on the final venue jointly." Reed said that the stadium's new retractable roof, which was "installed after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and upgraded suites and seats which meet FIFA standards also appealed to the governing body" (CP, 3/22). SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote on his Twitter feed, "Storm brewing among top US women's soccer players over much of 2015 World Cup being played on artificial turf in Canada."
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: The U.S. men's national soccer team announced the venues for its four remaining qualifying games for the '14 FIFA World Cup, June 11 against Panama at CenturyLink Field, June 18 against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sept. 10 against Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium, and Oct. 11 against Jamaica at Sporting Park (USSF). In K.C., Tod Palmer writes Sporting Park could "play host to one of the most critical matches on the road to Brazil in 2014 -- the last home game in the final round of CONCACAF qualification. Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman said, "I don’t think, if you asked someone who didn’t know, where’s the likely location for the biggest game in the country that they’d pick Kansas City. It’s a testament to what the fans have built here" (K.C. STAR, 3/22).
TROUBLE IN PARADISE? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rogerio Jelmayer noted construction of the soccer stadium scheduled to host the opening match of the '14 FIFA World Cup in Brazil "may grind to a halt in a dispute over funding." Former Brazilian club Corinthians President Andrés Sánchez is "threatening to pull the plug on the project unless the government-run National Bank for Economic and Social Development pays out" some $202M in loans that have already been approved. Sánchez said that Corinthians "doesn't have enough cash to continue building the 48,000-seat stadium." A source said that Banco do Brasil has "rejected the guarantees that Corinthians and the construction company, Odebrecht SA, have put up to secure the loans" (WSJ.com, 3/20).
The AHL Rochester Americans on Thursday announced that Frontier Field will host an outdoor hockey event this year from Dec. 13-22. The festival will kick off with a regular-season AHL game featuring the Amerks, and will include a college hockey double-header for the Rochester Institute of Technology's men's and women's teams, several high school hockey games and an alumni game featuring former Amerks and Sabres players (Amerks). In Rochester, Kevin Oklobzija notes between events there will be "rental times in 75-minute blocks allotted for youth teams, adult leagues, groups and corporate holiday parties on the rink that will sit in the middle of the baseball diamond." Sabres President Ted Black said, "It will be very exciting for hockey families and the family of hockey in western New York." The Sabres, as owners of the Amerks, will "underwrite most costs of the event." The teams want to "make this venture a community focal point at the downtown baseball stadium." Maine-based Rink Specialists, which built the rinks for the '11 Winter Classic and the '12 Frozen Fenway event, has "agreed to be a partner in the Amerks project and will share in the profits." Black said that any losses "would be absorbed by the Sabres." Having the Sabres brand attached to the Amerks and Rochester "will also help sell corporate packages and perhaps naming rights" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 3/22).