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ATP TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT
July 3, 2007
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Good morning, everyone. On the basis that a picture tells a much better story than a thousand words, let's have some pictures.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: My wife tells me that I am probably the worst person in the world to tell a good story to because I can never keep it to myself.
In fact, it's so bad that when people tell me not to repeat something, I only tell them, Tell others once. The story of Tennis Masters Cup coming to London is something I expressed to a number of you I truly wished would happen. It's just something I wished would happen. I never honestly saw how it could come together.
What is remarkable is that it has come together. What is remarkable is that I've got the quality and the pedigree of partners sitting on either side of me that makes this story remarkable.
Briefly, the Masters Cup, after 2008, will come to London in 2009. It will be staged at this incredible facility that AEG have built at what was known as the Dome is now the O2 arena. It will be held there for four years.
On my left is Philip Beard, CEO of the O2, and the man who had the courage and the conviction and the vision to stage an event of this magnitude at the O2. I want to allow each of them to say a few words when I'm done introducing them.
But AEG, as you know, are one of the world's leading indoor and outdoor sports and entertainment promotors. Their investment at the O2 is a bold and many would say foolish initiative which in the space of under three weeks has proven to be a monstrous success.
I went to a concert last week, and I was just absolutely blown away by the scale of this place and the fact that it was full. 17,000 people to a Snow Patrol concert. The aisles were jammed, the clubs were filled, the cafes were filled, another 2,000 people at the Crowded House concert at Indigo. So fantastic. Unbelievable.
On my right and left are two gentlemen to whom I just cannot have a greater debt and to whom I owe a huge debt of friendship and gratitude, Ian and Tim. To get their endorsement from the people who have put on unquestionably the world's most prestigious and best-known tennis event, to get their endorsement is one thing, which would have been enough for me, but to get their active support in marketing and promoting and ensuring that this event is a success is just -- goes beyond words, just goes beyond words.
We in tennis will be eternally grateful to them but I personally would like to say how grateful I am to you.
On my right, Stuart Smith of the LTA, who saw this as a huge opportunity for grassroots development, so they are partnering with us as well. Technically it's a joint venture between the ATP and AEG, which is a departure for the ATP.
We're doing this in association with two of the greatest partners we could possibly have in tennis and in this market, the All England Club and the LTA.
This is a match made in heaven for me, absolute match made in heaven.
I'll and it over to Phil who would like to say a few words quickly.
PHILIP BEARD: I'll keep it fairly short. We opened last week at the O2. If you haven't been, please come down. Our intention, our aim is to make it the best arena venue in Europe for world class music, sport, and entertainment.
I think we're along the way with music. We have Barbara Streisand, Rolling Stones, Take That. We had Elton John with his Red Piano Tour later in the year, and lots more besides that. We have great entertainment.
In terms of sport, we've brought the NHL two real-season games coming at the end of September. We've go the NBA coming. I don't think it gets much bigger than this in terms of indoor sports. We're really, really delighted that we're going to host this tournament from 2009 and for four years.
We're an Olympic venue for basketball and gymnastics. To get the best players in the world to come to the O2, which I consider to be the best venue in the world, couldn't get any better for us.
We look forward to hosting the tournament. We look forward to promoting it. We look forward to being a success not just for the ATP, but we hope for all of our partners.
Thank you very much.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Tim.
TIM PHILLIPS: Very quickly. The All England Club, one of its aims is to foster the best interests of tennis both nationally and internationally. With this opportunity we see fantastic opportunity for tennis development in the UK -- and Stuart will speak for a minute about that in a second -- but also for the Grand Slam Development Fund.
It will continue the facility whereby some funds become available to the Grand Slam Development Fund. Together the Grand Slams have invested over $30 million in the developing world for the propagation of tennis. So it is going to help with development of tennis in the UK through the LTA's new schemes and through the Grand Slam Development Fund.
We also see this as being very good for the game and very good for London, a major event in November which is an off-peak month. It will be wonderful for London.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Stuart.
STUART SMITH: Morning, everyone. For me, for the LTA, this is all about three things: players, fans and, as Tim has just mentioned, the time of year. Dealing with the last point first, Wimbledon obviously provides the showcase for tennis in this country. This will provide another one.
The opportunity to see all of these top players and guaranteed it will just be fantastic for us from the other two points. Firstly, the players. We will expose the game even more, much more widely to young players. I think it will attract a huge audience from the young players. We will make sure the young players in particular and young fans get there.
Secondly, the fans themselves, the opportunity to see all these players in London guaranteed at that time of year I think is bound to be a huge boost for our game.
Thank you very much.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Ian.
IAN RITCHIE: I think just to say we see this as very complementary to the tennis schedule as far as the All England Club is concerned. There's always discussions about tennis in the UK in particular being totally focused on two weeks of The Championships.
Whilst we enjoy that and appreciate that, I think expanding it in this period of time is only a good thing for tennis and I think is a positive step, therefore, for The Championships as well.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Thank you. A special thank you to you for everything you've done. I'd also like to thank Bill Babcock, secretary of the Grand Slam Committee, for having eased the way and smoothed the transition which I know is never that easy.
But this is a great story for tennis. I think it's more than just symbolic that we're all sitting at the same table and taking this game forward. Hopefully every step we make along these lines is going to strengthen our sport.
We're ready to take questions. Thank you.
Q. What is the length of the contract for this event?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: It's a four-year contract. Four years. It goes through 2012, which is the Olympic year.
Q. When does this fit into the schedule in terms of time? End of November?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Same date as it currently is.
Q. What has the reaction been so far from any of the players?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Very, very positive. I mean, they may not like the weather here, but this place has a roof.
PHILIP BEARD: Guaranteed for rain interruption.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: By 2009 this place will have a roof, too.
They love London. It makes a lot of sense from the swings that we have in our tour to bring -- it allows us to develop the Southeast Asian swing, provides Shanghai with a major event in the late fall, then brings the whole indoor swing in Europe to a logical European head here in Europe.
So they're delighted. They're also playing for a lot more money, which is not a bad thing either.
Q. Will the honorary stewards from the All England Club be there?
TIM PHILLIPS: We will be providing marketing support, helping with the communication of the event during the The Championships. We'll make some facilities available to the ATP, and to O2. We will be providing marketing support.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Tim is very modest about this. Having kiosks on-site where people can book online tickets, having a marquee here where our sponsors, our joint sponsors, cannot only savor what Wimbledon stands for but get a far better sense of the degree of cooperation at Wimbledon, is invaluable.
Having an ad in every one of the magazines, these are just extraordinarily, extraordinarily valuable marketing tools.
Q. There is a very significant television audience in the United States which probably wasn't happy about getting up at 6 a.m. to watch matches from Shanghai. Is there a contract in place for U.S. TV for this event? If not, what's the status of negotiations in that sense? What sort of times do you have in mind for starting?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Taking each in turn, there is no contract in place. We have a contract through 2010. The ongoing discussions with ESPN are, as you know, a year-on-year thing. This is unquestionably a better time for American television households.
We're not firm yet on how we will do this, but we're probably going to go with two sessions: An afternoon and an evening session, at which time the evening session for East Coast will be perfect. We don't want any Americans to wake up at 6 a.m. Too unhealthy for you guys.
Q. Etienne, do you have a UK broadcaster sorted out?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: We're in discussions with terrestrials. We already have an agreement in place for 2009 and '10 with Sky. This event has always had the ability to carve out terrestrial windows as well for certain matches a day and for the one semifinal and the final. I'm sure there will be a lot of interest.
Q. There's been a problem in the past with Tennis Masters Cup because of the time of year it is, players exhausted, injured at that time of the season. Players have pulled out. Do you have any reason to think things will be better by the time it comes to London?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Well, I'll go back to one year where we had that problem. Last year we had every single one of the players play. The whole tour that we've designed is more player friendly. We've eliminated five-set finals.
Where possible, we're having our seeded players get byes through to the second round. We've reduced the 64 draws down to 56. We've seen already the benefits of that in the short time we've had that with the clay court season.
You're never going to have a foolproof system, but what you do have now is more choice for these players and slightly more time and also not the demands of traveling out, the jetlag effects of going out to a different time zone. They're in this time zone for the better part of six weeks. You never can say never, but I hope we'll be fine.
Q. Having at the same time the singles and doubles final, do you realize we have a sort of imbalanced event, a huge difference of quality and name?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Kind of a leading question. I don't agree that they are of a different quality. I think the standard of doubles is higher than it's ever been. We're very proud of our doubles players and our doubles event.
I think the singles will always take pride of place. That's not because of anything other than the fans see the sport that way. But I think it's great that we celebrate both.
Q. Etienne, you say it's great to have everyone around the same table and indeed it is. But the big major player in tennis not with you up there is, of course, Larry Scott. Does the fact that the WTA have now committed to whatever it is, six years, for their finals -- you've now committed till 2013 -- does that rule out the possibility of you ever having a combined end-of-year event?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Never is a long time. What you'll see, as our plans become clearer, we've been working very, very closely, not only with the Slams and the ITF, but also with the WTA. Hopefully we will bring over time more and more combined events to fans because we believe that's the way fans see our sport.
It's thanks in large to the great role that the Slams play here. I mean, this is what the Slams has given the sport, is a unique positioning with fans. So the more combined events we can do, the better we're going to be.
I think the financial demands, as Phil will attest, for running a show like this are quite significant. Plus you do have significant logistics issues with a single-stadium facility, a single-arena facility.
It never is too long a time. But we're evolving, as you'll see, to a sport that is more and more united. Sort of by 2012 you'll see major, major changes that we will evolve to. The next step will be hopefully to get a combined event.
Q. Does Brad Drewett retain his position as tournament director when it moves to London?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: He will always have an involvement. I don't have an organization that is very broad. I have great strength in the individuals we have. We've got in Brad, in Andy Anson, in Richard Davies, in Chris Kermode, guys who really, really understand this market, understand sports promotion.
So as everything, there are no "I" specialists in my team. We're a bench of "we's." Teams get things done.
Brad is all over this. So is Andy. So is Phil, Richard Davies, Chris Kermode. I'm thrilled we have a team.
Then we've got these guys here, as well, who don't run too bad an event.
Q. The ATP was looking forward to some other changes in 2009. Any update you can give us on Madrid's bid to host the combined event?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: You'll have to wait for the next press announcement. We're very close to finalizing all of these. We're not trying to be cute. These are big changes. We need to have all of the contractual issues nailed down and calendar issues have to be completely clear. We're not far off. The exciting news is coming.
Q. Tim, of course this event used to be known as the Grand Slam Cup. Now it's the ATP Tour Finals. Does that cause a shift in power away from the Grand Slams, and in particular the ITF? What is their involvement, if anything, in this?
TIM PHILLIPS: As I recall, the Grand Slam Cup ran in parallel with the Masters, the ATP Masters finals. That's not how it was historically.
In terms of this, I think there is a spirit of trying to move the game forward. It is a fantastic sport. It is played everywhere in the world. It is probably the most internationally competed sport after soccer. We believe that London is a great city. We've got a vested interest in London obviously. It's a great city to hold this event. We think this is good for tennis.
Q. Is there any ITF involvement at all?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: The ITF and the Grand Slam Development Fund benefit from the event by way of a grant that is made. We have the active support of the Grand Slams, as well. Hence my reference to Bill Babcock.
Q. Is it possible to let us know the levels of financial commitment from all the parties involved? It's clearly going to be a very expensive to put on.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I'm paying for the lot personally. It's all coming out of my pocket (smiling).
Q. Is it possible to let us know how much the various parties are contributing?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I'm paying a lot.
Q. Is that a no?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: That would be a no.
Q. Any decision on the surface? Indoor?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Absolutely. The same surface as they're playing at the moment in Shanghai.
Q. Pure semantics. Not too long ago much play was made of the fact that the word "Masters" was again used. Those with a long memory will think back to Madison Square Garden. The natural end of the season was always the Masters. That now appears to be ditched and we're back into ATP World Championships, which then with a sponsor thrown in game a mouthful in Frankfurt. Why has the word "Masters," which I think all the traditionalists like to see at the end of the season, gone?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: The issue is one of distinguishing between the people that understand tennis really, really well, which are all pretty much seated in this room, and the average fan. The research we've done reveals that Masters is a confusing title. It's a great title, but we do some Masters events that are combined as well, and some Masters with women doesn't seem to have the same resonance.
B, most fans that we talk to in research tell us the thing they love about the sport is its global nature. It is a global sport. When we tested various names, ATP as a name was a sixth as popular as the ATP World Tour.
So to us, the ATP World Tour is something that we feel is very important in the positioning of every one of our events. This event is the final event, and it does signify who the champion is. We feel this is the appropriate name for an event that will be consistent with the branding, the positioning of our tour by 2009.
Q. Will the name of the Masters Series change?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Probably.
Q. To what?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: It's work in progress because what we have within the Masters series are combined events as well. So I think we have to be sensitive to how they are positioned. This is something that Phil Anderton is working very hard on.
We're currently testing and researching names and designs that hopefully reflect what we stand for and what that tier stands for.
Q. When Shanghai's deal ends, they'll take on a big prestigious ATP tournament. When this deal ends, a long time in the future, will you be gunning to get a major indoor tour event in the O2?
PHILIP BEARD: I mean, we're delighted it's four years for a start because it takes us through to the Olympic Games, which as an Olympic venue we're really pleased about. Our aim, as I said earlier, is that we will search and bring the best that we can find in terms of music, sport, and entertainment.
We talked a lot about the term of the agreement. We felt that the four years demonstrated our commitment to the event but also to tennis.
As a tennis fan, it's just, I think, really exciting. I know working with the team over the last few months, the intention is to enable us to get a lot of juniors, a lot of people, kids to come to the event and see what we're doing. We've also got Turbo Tennis coming as an event in September. We're excited about that.
Our intention is just to make sure we have the very best that we can get at the best venue. Again, if you haven't been, six stops from Waterloo on the tube, or come by river. It's very easy to get to.
Q. You didn't really answer the question. Seriously, we need another tour event in the UK, don't we? Stuart and Roger talked about that.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: There's no reason why we have to end it at the end of the four years. One of the things that we decided as a board to do was to back ourselves, and hence it's a joint venture.
In the past the event has been, if you want, "sold" to the highest bidder. It was and still remains a very, very important part of the tour's economics.
We took a very measured, but we believe very calculated and appropriate amount of risk in taking the venture on with AEG. Madison Square Garden's was a great event. A, because it was a great city; and, B, because it was a great place. But, C, because over time it started enjoying a position of habit.
I think creating habits in sport is a very, very important thing. Creating habits in everything is a very good thing, so it could go beyond four years. We're economically incentivized, as are each one of the partners, to make the most of this.
Everyone has skin in the game. That makes for a great relationship. There's no reason why it shouldn't stay here for a long time.
Q. Wimbledon attracts a great number of customers because, like the Super Bowl, for example, it's more than just tennis, it's an event, people will come. No one's going to argue that the number of members in the LTA nationwide here even approximate on a percentage basis other countries that are actively involved in tennis. The question is: How do you know that this event is going to sell, particularly in the middle of football season?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: How do I know?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I've never been more certain in my life that this will sell. If there's one thing I know, this event will sell. More than half a million people applied to come to Wimbledon.
TIM PHILLIPS: That's the number that come. There are many more that apply.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Many more apply.
We're completely and absolutely under providing in terms of the demand. If you look at how the BlackRock Masters, which is a great event, is sold at the Albert Hall in the middle of the football season.
Again, this is a great event. It's on the doorstep of Canary Wharf, which is a hundred thousand people in the city who arguably have got more money than they need. This is a great opportunity for them to entertain themselves and to entertain their clients who also arguably have more money than they need.
I think just purely looking at it from that perspective. The LTA were really excited about this project because one of the things that we can do with this huge facility is actually provide tickets to the LTA that wouldn't be sold, so they can bring kids to this facility.
We have the David Beckham facility which we can deck out and provide for the LTA a kids' zone. We're stimulating at every level.
I'll take a wager for as much money as I can afford, which is no more than five quid, that this is a success.
IAN RITCHIE: To come to our single focus on this, there were many places around the world who would want to take this event. The reason for the club's involvement was we felt it was right to try and bring it to London and to do what we could to assist.
I think that was the LTA's view, as well. This was a competitive position. They were alternatives available. There were other venues, cities, countries. We felt really passionate if there was an opportunity to bring this kind of event in tennis to London that we should do all we can to achieve that principle in the first place.
In the second place, what we then want to do is to add the support, as Tim said earlier, about marketing and promotional activity, that we'll do all we can to help make it a success as well.
But the first principle for us was looking at this event in isolation. As it were, is it the right thing to try to bring it to London? And could we achieve the successful objective in doing that with the rest of the partners? As far as the club were concerned, we felt that was absolutely the right thing to do, and, therefore, the support that will be given to it as well, we'll do as much as we can.
But we, too, believe it has every opportunity to be a successful event as it's designed.
PHILIP BEARD: As a business, we don't just take these decisions without research and understanding what the marketplace looks like. We have a series of business partners. We have a significant opportunity to talk to a lot of our customers.
This event, in terms of sports, was the sport that people wanted to see. We're comforted by the fact that our NHL and NBA games have sold out this year. We've got two years to make sure this works and four years to make it a huge success. We'd be very happy if that four years is extended way beyond that.
As a business, we've made sure that our business partners are delighted this event is coming in 2009.
Q. Can you say how much money the All England Club are putting into this event, or is it just the marketing thing? The secretive way you run this championship, how does that blend with the ATP, which is a bit more razzmatazz?
IAN RITCHIE: I wouldn't say we're secretive. I think we're pretty open about a lot of numbers.
As far as this is concerned, I mean, the elements of the deal, as Phil said earlier, I'm sure everyone around the table is a matter of perfectly reasonable commercial confidentiality.
What we're prepared to put into it is the support in terms of ticket availability; helping to manage access to our databases; dealing with the marquees and situations that Etienne mentioned earlier.
I think some of the support we're putting in is in kind, and that's, I think, the most significant support that we can add, as well as with the association.
Q. Will you keep the same format, the round robin system?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I don't do this any more when I hear about round robins (making the sign of the cross).
No, I think it's absolutely the right format for this kind of event. The players like it. They know that this is where the best get to meet the best, and they each want to have a piece of each other.
It makes a great one-on-one competition. Yeah, you do occasionally get dead rubbers, but last year I don't think we had one. It's the right format I think for this. It's also great for television because television and fans know exactly who they're going to come and see when they buy a ticket.
That's always a good thing with tennis, which you can never guarantee elsewhere. I think this is the right way to go.
Q. There's a stadium quite near this room which is going to have a roof and lights by 2009. I don't suppose you ever considered trying to stage the tournament here, did you?
TIM PHILLIPS: No, we didn't. Grass court tournaments in November in England we thought possibly wasn't a runner.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: We tried hard to have Wimbledon go Wimbledon hard court, but they - believe it or not - wouldn't buy it.
STUART SMITH: The one word that hasn't been used today is "inspiration." This place, when kids come to Wimbledon, they're inspired to play the game. The venue that Phil is running down there, coupled with this event that Etienne is putting there, is going to be genuinely inspirational to thousands and thousands and thousands of kids whether this he play tennis at present or whether they don't.
I think we're very, very lucky in British tennis to have this event coming. I hope you agree.
TIM PHILLIPS: I don't know how many of you are old enough to remember the indoor tennis, the pros playing at Wembley. I know as a kid I came. Stunning matches between Hoad and Gonzales, that sort of thing. Certainly made a big impact on me.
I'm sure this is going to be times three or times four in terms of the impact because of the surroundings.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I think that's right.
Q. Ticket-wise, are you looking at doing a take that, put the tickets on the Internet, they go in five minutes, or is it going to be Wimbledon style?
PHILIP BEARD: Take that because they do go in five minutes.
What we'll do is we'll allow people to register to get tickets, then we will go on sale. I think it's not as simple as a music concert where you put four or five nights on and just go. I think we'll think carefully about how we allocate the tickets. I think we'll think about making sure they go to the right people.
I was involved in the Olympic bid for two and a half years, then LOCOG after that until I joined AEG. I think Stuart is right. We forget this word "inspiration" and really getting people to come to major events. It is a fantastic occasion to come to Wimbledon. You just see people queuing, queuing, queuing. We just had this massive desire.
Somebody mentioned it's the middle of the football season. That's great. But this is the biggest tennis event outside the Grand Slams, and it's coming to London. I would say this, but it's coming to what I consider to be the very best venue. Let's inspire people. Let's get people to come. We have the Beckham Academy, which is going to be set up, four practice courts, and we'll talk to the LTA about getting the juniors to use it during that period.
I just see it as an absolute massive positive that we've managed through this partnership to bring the event against fierce competition from other cities. It's just going to make a huge difference to people's perceptions of tennis in this country.
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