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Volume 20 No. 42

Leagues and Governing Bodies

ATP players are seeking to roughly double by 2018 the prize money paid out by the circuit’s top nine tournaments, but owners of those events have responded with a far lower proposed increase, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The tournaments, known as the Masters 1000 events and which include four tournaments in North America, are set to pay out more than $36 million to ATP players this year.

“Players are on one side, and tournaments are on the other,” said Chris Kermode, the ATP’s president, who declined to provide details on proposals made by the two sides.

The proposals were first put on the table in London at tour board meetings shortly before Wimbledon and included a third proposal offered by Kermode, which he described as being in between the other offers.

A source close to the tournaments side criticized the players’ proposal as being disconnected from economic reality and said the tournaments would help singles players by shifting the percentage of tournament prize money paid to them from 80 percent to 87 percent. The remainder falls to doubles players. 

The tournaments never fully supported the push by Kermode’s predecessor, the late Brad Drewett, to pressure the four Grand Slam tournaments to increase their purses. The four Slams did agree to dramatic increases, but as the 1000s worried, that left them paling in comparison and next in line for the players.

For example, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships last week announced prize money would hit $38.3 million this summer, with half of that ($19.15 million) going to ATP players. By comparison, the top purse for men of the 1000s is the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif, which awarded $5.24 million in March. Six of the nine 1000s are below $4 million. 

Kermode, who began as ATP president this year, said he would not cast a tie-breaking vote as the seventh member of the ATP board on the 1000s prize money controversy. There are three player representatives and three tournament reps. “This has to be done by consensus,” he said.

He added that there will be multiple meetings through the U.S. Open, with a final decision expected by November.

Were a deal not to be reached, the ATP’s contract with the nine tournaments would expire, and the 1000s would be free to set their own prize money. It’s unclear if the world’s top players would still be required to play the events if there is not an overarching agreement with the ATP. 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver continues to put his stamp on the league, last week announcing the creation of a chief marketing officer position to be filled by industry veteran Pamela El amid a new marketing strategy.

El, who comes to the NBA from Nationwide Insurance and 11 years previously at State Farm Insurance, begins her job Aug. 18. She will report to NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and will help direct what Tatum calls a new 365-day approach to marketing the NBA’s brand.


“We think there is an opportunity to grow our fan base, and a way to do that is strategic marketing where we are marketing the brand every day,” Tatum said. “What is different is that we are going to invest in marketing and go out and identify opportunities to grow our sport. We will market every day of the year, and it will be very targeted.”

One particular area of focus, Tatum said, will be for El to beef up the league’s CRM effort. “We will use data to identify the people we need to go after, and she brings that as well,” he said.

The NBA has cycled through several senior marketing executives in recent years. Jamie Gallo, former NBA executive vice president/marketing, served from June 2012 until leaving the league in January. Carol Albert was NBA senior vice president of marketing from 2008 to 2009 before joining Madison Square Garden, and Gary Zarr worked as executive vice president of marketing and communications for the NBA from 2007 to 2008. Greg Economou worked as senior vice president of marketing for the NBA in 2006.

El has a familiarity with the league: While at State Farm, she played a key role in the company’s sponsorship deal with the NBA and its endorsement deal with LeBron James.

“She has been on the other side doing marketing with the NBA,” Tatum said, “so she has that credibility.”

The NFL has begun meeting with potential alternative venues in London to Wembley Stadium, its host since the league began playing regular-season games there in 2007.

The NFL is contracted to play at Wembley through 2016, and the talks with other parties, which sources said include English Premier League clubs and London’s Olympic Stadium, are at an early stage.

Wembley Stadium has been host to the NFL since it began playing regular-season games in London in 2007.

Nevertheless, the talks underscore that the NFL is laying the groundwork for games beyond 2016, when the current ownership resolution approving the U.K. contests expires.

“The expectation is we will be playing games beyond 2016, and we need the flexibility to play those games where we want and when we want,” said Chris Parsons, NFL senior vice president of international. “Clearly Wembley gives us some great options. At the same time, Wembley also has England [soccer] games going on during the weeks we play. That is a challenge for us if we want to play more games, how we actually fit into the schedule.”

The NFL played a single regular-season game annually in London for six years and then in 2013 played two. This year, the league has scheduled three games, with the potential of further increases in 2015 and 2016.

The league could stage the games in multiple venues if it brings over more games. Parsons mentioned as theoretical options Twickenham Stadium, an 82,000-seat rugby venue outside of London, and the city’s Olympic Stadium, which will host EPL squad West Ham United starting in 2016. Other sources said talks have occurred with Tottenham Hotspur, a London club that has plans to build a new 58,000-seat venue in the city by 2017, and that even the stadium in Cardiff, two hours from London, is a possibility. 

A spokeswoman for Tottenham denied talks had occurred with the NFL.

If a club relocated to London, a topic of discussion inside and outside the league, the NFL likely would want a single location for that team.

Terry Byrne, former business manager of David Beckham and currently part of a London-based group that owns Pelé’s marketing rights, said the NFL would be wise to stay at Wembley because more people attend simply because the games are there. The problem with playing in the home of an EPL team, he added, is that fans of other soccer clubs might not want to go to that venue even to watch American football.

So far, the Wembley games have all sold out, including the three slated for this fall. Whether more games, or a full season with a relocated team, can sell out Wembley’s seats is something the NFL is now considering. The stadium’s capacity is 90,000, but for NFL games, to account for the team benches and broadcast space, the venue seats around 84,000. That still makes it large by league standards. The average capacity at NFL teams’ venues last season was about 71,000.

“We are constantly looking at where we can play, what options we might have,” Parsons said. “We would be stupid not to.”