The time is ripe for men’s and women’s tennis to merge and vindicate Billie Jean King

The second issue is the receptive perspective of Andrea Gaudenzi, the brand new president of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). Having labored on varied digital start-ups since he retired from the tour, Gaudenzi got here in with a plan to shake-up TV rights by way of a single “over-the-top” bundle, offered straight to followers. If this included WTA matches as properly, it could look twice as sparkly.

“I am privy to a lot of [the ATP’s] plans,” mentioned Max Eisenbud, agent for Maria Sharapova, on the Beyond the Baseline podcast. “Do I think they mean ‘Let’s join tours?’, maybe not now, for the short term. What they mean is ‘Let’s try to pool our TV rights, let’s try to pool some marketing, let’s try to have some more bigger combined events’.”

Eisenbud come across the largest of many unresolved points: the truth that the very phrase “merger” is extremely imprecise and may apply to all kinds of issues. The light-touch model – and additionally the most probably given the inertia within the system – begins with TV, sponsorship and ­packages for data-streaming. You then transfer to extra formidable objectives, such because the working of tournaments and, finally, a unified governance.

“The devil is in the detail,” mentioned Anne Worcester, who was the WTA’s chief government within the late 1990s and is now president of Universal Tennis. “But if you think about those two budgets, those two boards of directors, those two rule books, there are incredible efficiencies and economies of scale to be found in combining it all.”

Who would maintain the facility on this partnership? The imbalance between a rising ATP and a stagnating WTA – in accountant’s phrases at the very least – fuels hypothesis that we may very well be speaking about an acquisition, relatively than a merger.

Even earlier than the pandemic, the WTA was struggling commercially – as is underlined by its failure to discover a new title sponsor since Sony Ericsson pulled out in 2012. Its accounts for 2017 confirmed web revenues of simply $6 million, and property of solely $5 million. The ATP’s equal figures had been $19 million and round $160 million.

It is an identical story on TV rights, the place the WTA’s one-off cope with Perform is value round 60 per cent of what the ATP makes by the Tennis Channel, Amazon Prime and different companions. Increasingly, the WTA depends on Chinese authorities charges, for which it levels no fewer than 10 occasions in China yearly.

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