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SONY ERICSSON WTA TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT
September 3, 2008
ANDREW WALKER: Thank you, all. With us today for a Sony Ericsson WTA announcement, we have Larry Scott, the chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
Thank you everyone. Looks like it's going to be an exciting day on the court, but we wanted to start the day just with a few comments about what's happening off the court and in the meeting rooms for the Sony Ericsson WTA tour.
We'll take a few short moments to reflect on sort of where we are on some of the reform and transformation of our circuit, and also to use today as an opportunity to look forward with 2009 sort of right in front of us.
In the past five years, since I got in front of many of you as the chief of the Sony Ericsson WTA tour, there have been quite a few significant milestones that we're pleased about looking back on the last five years.
Certainly the headlines for us include the achievement of equal prize money at the four Grand Slams, and now, as you'll see, well beyond that.
The overall financial health of the tour, sort of at an unprecedented level through sponsorship of Sony Ericsson Whirlpool, others. Long-term deals for the licensing of our championships through 2013. Arrangements with the government of Beijing that has allowed us to establish an office there, and going to be developing the sport in an aggressive way in China with the Chinese Tennis Association.
Several levels of innovation, including electronic line calling, a landmark TV deal with EuroSport, and the first ever truly global marketing campaign where we're investing $15 million over the next five years.
You've heard about some of these things together, but when we look back on the last five years we're quite pleased with where women's tennis has come from so far.
However, shortly into my tenure with the tour, we started embarking on a process to look at some fundamental reform to the tennis calendar, the player commitment system itself, which we originally dubbed Roadmap 2010, and has now become Roadmap 2009, sort of giving a positive pace of our internal discussions. These changes I hope will position the next five years as strong as the last five years have been.
Before I get into the specifics of the many elements of the Roadmap 2009 plan, just wanted to show a short two-minute video recapping some of the progress over the last five years.
LARRY SCOTT: Thank you. So while there's been a lot of progress, as you've seen, in my first year 2003, I also received a lot of concern from the players, from the tournaments, from our sponsor and TV business partners about the calendar, the circuit structure, and the feeling from all of our major stake holders there were going to be major impediments if we were really going to grow women's tennis to its full potential.
So it was in November 2003, our Championships in Los Angeles, that I met with the top eight players in the world and our board and said, If we're serious about embarking on a change, it's going to take some time. We're going to have to do it in an inclusive, collaborative way. It will have to be evolution more than revolution. Those were the foundations behind the Roadmap.
So while you're aware of some of the things we've been working on, really today is the first day that I can sort of announce all of the components of it together. There are really four baskets of initiatives under the Roadmap that I'd like to outline for you.
First is the things we're doing to ensure a healthier calendar for the players. The second is those things that we're doing to reorganize the calendar so that it's streamlined, enhanced, and more valuable, and will position the tour to grow with our fans and commercial partners.
Third are initiatives to greater align with men's tennis and the ATP. The fourth basket of those things that we're doing in areas of innovation that are really firsts in our sport. I'll come back to each of those.
First in terms of a healthier calendar, we've long coveted a longer off-season, and we'll have that next year with the end-of-year Championships ending at the end of October. We'll be up to a nine-week off-season for the players, which is two more weeks than what we have today.
We're going to reduce the amount players are required to play by the tour. Traditionally they're required to play 13 tournaments on top of the Grand Slams. That number will be down to 10 tournaments next year.
There will be a limitation on how many smaller tournaments the top 10 players can play, because we want them playing on the biggest stages. We've also made some reorganization of the calendar so that the players have to change surfaces less often, less indoor to outdoor, less hardcourt to clay, and vice versa, because our medical people have told us that's one of the leading contributors to injury, is changing surfaces and conditions.
So that really was the starting point and the cornerstone for the Roadmap. If our players aren't healthy and able to compete throughout the year, able to compete at their best at the biggest moments, we felt that women's tennis wasn't going to reach its potential. So the healthier calendar is, for me, probably the most important long-term aspect of what we're doing.
Secondly, we are reformatting the calendar in a way that we think will be more compelling to fans and to our media partners that follow the sport by streamlining the top number of tournaments from 26 Tier 1 and Tier 2 tournaments we have today down to 20, what we're calling Premier Level Tournaments.
The anchors of these 20 premier tournaments will be four mandatory combined equal prize money tournaments, in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, and Beijing.
Those will be $4.5 million in prize money, which is an unprecedented level of prize money for our players. To put that in perspective, our single highest prize money tournament in 2007 was the Miami tournament at $3.7 million in prize money. The next highest was Indian Wells at $2.1 million in prize money.
So all four of those tournaments going up to $4.5 million in prize money. A significant increase there, which is really sort of proving the proposition that when the best men and best women play together on the biggest stages, there is untapped value for the sport.
Aside from those four premier mandatory tournaments, we have 15 other premier tournaments, and then 30 international tournaments on the tour. So in total, we still will have 55 tournaments. A very similar number, but we've had to streamline a little bit to end the season a little bit earlier.
Another new feature of the calendar is in addition to the end-of-year Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, we'll have the first ever year-end Championships for our international level tournaments. You'll see in the calendars that are in your kit today, we've try to simplify the presentation of the calendar to premier level tournaments on the left-hand side, international tournaments on the right-hand side.
We felt that it's important that those international tournaments are something they're leading towards as well, so you'll see a tournament in Bali, Indonesia at the end of the calendar, and that will be for the top 12 ranked winners of international tournaments during the year.
It won't be the same players that are playing in Doha. If you play in Doha, that's your end-of-year season Championship. But if you didn't qualify for Doha and you won one of those international tournaments during the year, we'll hopefully see those players in Bali.
Prize money on the tour is going up substantially from a little bit over $71 million this year to over $85 million next year. To put that in perspective from 2006 to 2009, that will represent a 40% prize money increase for the players.
There's also record investment in new facilities. Amongst those four premier mandatory tournaments next year, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, and Beijing, two of those, Madrid and Beijing, are brand new facilities. Madrid the tennis world hasn't seen yet. The Magic Box I think will be the most spectacular new tennis stadium, maybe sports facility, in the world next year.
Three retractable roofs on some spectacular land in Madrid. Our Beijing tournament at the end of the year will be in the new Olympic tennis venue that some of you would have had a chance to see during the Olympics.
Tying all this together will be a revised ranking system. Some significant changes to the ranking system with a shift more toward quality and toward players' results in the premium level events.
What I mean by that, is the ranking will consist of results from the four Grand Slam tournaments, from the four premier mandatory tournaments, two of the next level of premier tournaments, and then a player's best five or six results.
So the rankings will consist of 16 results on a player's ranking, down from 17 today. But the player's ranking will be made up more significantly by their results at these biggest tournaments that they have to play.
The idea being that while you always want to balance an incentive for those players that support the system and play more tournaments, and those players that play more should always have a chance to improve upon their ranking. I think there's been a growing sentiment in our world that performance at those biggest events where the top players are playing against each other should have more of a significance in their end-of-year ranking.
So if players don't play the big events, there will be zero pointers. The results will not be able to be dropped or replaced by smaller tournaments. So it's a bit of a shift towards the big events in terms of what's going to make up the player's ranking while still trying to balance rewarding those players that are supporting the system more than others.
Third basket I alluded to was coordination with other governing bodies, and particularly alignment with the ATP. As I said to many of you in 2003 when I started, I was hopeful that during my tenure as head of the WTA to be able to work more closely with the other governing bodies for a better, stronger presentation of our sport. There has been a very positive evolution of developments in terms of our coordination with other governing bodies.
But when you look at our 2009 calendar, there are some important things that stand out, in my opinion. First is that we're up to a record number of tournaments that are combined or back to back with the ATP.
46% of the tournaments on our tour next year are aligned with the ATP, either back to back or combined, including the top 13 events in tennis are now going to be combined or aligned. If you take the four Grand Slams, our four premier mandatory tournaments, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing.
And then out next five biggest premier tournaments, $2 million tournaments in Dubai, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, and Tokyo. They're all back to back or combined. In fact, we've previously announced with the ATP that we have a plan for Rome, Canada, and Cincinnati to go from back to back to combined by 2011.
So as you'll see, there has been a pretty steady migration toward presentation of the sport with the best men and women together on the biggest stages, obviously led by the Grand Slams. I think some of this development really pays homage to all that the Grand Slams have done for the sport. They clearly draw the most fans in, they're the biggest moments in our sport.
So finding more moments during the year where we see the best of the best from both tours in the great cities, in the great venues, is something that we're following.
We'll also see equal prize money at a record number of tournaments next year. We're up to 10 tournaments that will have equal prize money. It was only two short years ago that there were only two tournaments in the world that paid equal prize money: The US Open and the Australian Open. Next year it will be 10. The four Grand Slams, the four premier mandatory tournaments, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, and Beijing, the end-of-year Championships.
The Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha will have equal prize money to the ATP Masters Cup in Shanghai already starting this year, and then our tournament in Dubai will make up the 10 that will be equal prize money. You can see there has been a constant movement toward a common presentation of the sport at the top.
Lastly, there are a few firsts in tennis, new innovation and I think some ground-breaking developments I want to draw your attention to. First, revenue sharing. I think women's tennis will become the first sport, the first individual sport ever, to have a revenue sharing agreement between our tournament promoters on the one hand and the players on another hand.
What this means, is that our prize money minimums are set for 2009 and 2010. But come 2011, any prize money increases will be determined based on the financial performance of the tournaments.
So for the first time we're going to have outside auditors that are going to go in and audit the books of the tournaments, and we're going to have a much deeper knowledge than we've ever had before about how the business of running our tournaments has gone.
And through the formula that's been developed, basically as tournament revenues increase, prize money will increase by a similar percentage. So if over the years tournament revenues decline, player prize money will decline, but not go below a certain minimum.
So this is obviously something that's been hugely important for the players, and it's something that's been embraced by the tournaments. The idea being there are a lot of changes being made to the calendar. And while the players are getting a lot that they like about this new system in terms of increased prize money, a shorter season, reduced player commitments, there are a lot of sacrifices the players are making in terms of much stiffer penalties, greater accountability, and a greater commitment to the biggest tournaments in the sport. And with that, they really want to be locked in as business partners with the tournament directors.
So this is something that took an awfully long time to develop, but I'm really thrilled we'll get out of the sort of random prize money negotiations between our players and tournaments, and finally have a formula that ties together the economic interests of our players and tournaments.
The second first, and I alluded to this in talking about what the players are really committing to and sacrificing as part of this new Roadmap, is the stronger accountability and tougher penalties. We'll have suspensions for the first time ever in tennis next year.
For those players that are committed to the top four premier mandatory and our next five premier tournaments in Dubai, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, and Tokyo. If they don't meet one of their commitments, they'll have an opportunity to sort of make up that commitment by showing up to the tournament or going to the tournament market the week of that tournament or another time during the year to show their commitment to that event to mitigate the fact that they couldn't play. But if they don't do that, then they'll be subject to a suspension the following year.
And the last sort of first or innovation I want to talk about is about the much-discussed on-court coaching. We've been through a very extensive period of testing and consultation, both internally and externally, and our board made the decision here, with the support of our player council, that we are going forward and approving and implementing on-court coaching at all tournaments starting next year.
It will continue to be voluntary for any player that chooses to do it. No one's forced to have their coach come out on the court, but they'll be entitled to once per set, or if their opponent ever takes a medical break.
The driving force behind this is really to continue to innovate for television and allow our many fans around the world to get a little bit closer to what's going on behind the scenes, in the player's head, in their coach's ahead, and give a little more insight.
We're certainly taking our cues from other sports that are investing heavily in television technology, giving a more peek behind the curtain and, and every day finding out way to get more access from the players to media, expose what's goings on behind the scenes to the public.
That was a really the driving force in the decision. It was a polarizing issue to be sure, a lot of potential, you know, consequences in the eyes of our players and tournaments, and that's why we took so long to really think it through. But at the end of the day, I think this step shows a real commitment from our athletes and from our sport towards innovation being as fan-friendly as possible and being a responsive to television as possible without altering the fundamentals of the sport.
Thank you for letting me go on and get through all of that. There's an awful lot you can see that will make up the plan for next year. That's why we are sort of thinking of this as sort of the single greatest reform package that at least women's tennis has seen.
We feel like we're building from a great position of strength over the last five years, but these changes are really about the next five years, the changes that we can make to position women's tennis for another great five years of growth.
Thank you, and I'm happy to take any questions that anyone has.
Q. Just to pick you up on the last subject you've been talking about, if you're allowing on-court coaching, how tough are you going to be about hand signals and coaching continuing when the coach returns to the seat? Because as we see it goes on in the men's tour.
LARRY SCOTT: Yeah, that was certainly one of the considerations, is that we know coaching is happening in a certain way. Very difficult to police. There's a lot of gray areas. But this is not a decision to legalize coaching from the player's box.
So there will be continued efforts to try to police it. Certainly anything that's flagrant, I think, will get caught, but we're also trying to get realistic and pragmatic. We know that the line between encouragement and coaching, especially with the multitude of languages that we have and all that, is virtually impossible to completely police.
Q. I'd like to know if you are considering anything about the toilet break, because I think sometimes it's ridiculous, especially in women's tennis. Every time someone loses a set, disappears. Another thing is about the suspension. You say a suspension the following year. I mean, how would that work? Give us details.
LARRY SCOTT: Certainly. Vis-a-vis the toilet break, it's something that's being constantly monitored, not just at the tour level, but here at the Grand Slams. We have a lot of dialogue about it. There's obviously, you know, a fine line to balance between medical timeouts and toilet breaks and, you know, fair competition and avoiding gamesmanship.
What we've actually found, and we're quite hopeful about, is with the on-court coaching, for any player that does take a medical break, the other player is going to be allowed access to their coach during that period of time. What we've found is that's sort of a disincentive and keeping players a little bit more honest about toilet breaks.
But there are, at this point in time, aside from allowing the opponent to gain access to their coach during a toilet break, there's no other changes that we're proposing for next year. But it is something we're constantly looking at.
On suspensions, the way that will work in more detail, and can give anyone the sort of detailed ruling language if you'd like it when we're finished, is if a player misses one of these -- ^not one of these nine tournaments that they're committed to, they will either be allowed to attend the tournament that week if they're capable of doing so to, you know, do a day of media and those things that will help the tournament to show that they were committed to the tournament.
If they can't, they'll be given some other opportunities during the year to make an in-market appearance and promote the tournament for the following year. If they don't do that, then they will be suspended for up to two premier tournaments after that tournament the following year.
So take Dubai as an example, which is the first premier tournament that this level in 2009. If a player was committed to play and didn't play and they weren't able to appear in Dubai that week, they'd be given three other dates during 2009 that they could appear in market and do promotion for the tournament for the following year.
If they didn't do that, following Dubai the next year they'd be suspended for the next two premier level tournaments in 2010 after Dubai.
Q. Back to the on-court coaching, could you give us any information on what you think that might do to the flow of the game, how much time that might take for a pause, and is there any concern about the momentum?
LARRY SCOTT: No, it's been designed in a way that it won't lengthen changeover time at all. So coaching can only occur during the allotted changeover time.
Q. Okay. Thanks. And I assume in the medical timeout, if the other person has that, the length of the medical timeout won't change.
LARRY SCOTT: Correct.
Q. And the coach is to be named before the tournament starts or can change? Because I've seen many times players that suddenly started to coach and a friend, because maybe their official coach had left or so on.
LARRY SCOTT: No. The coach has to be registered before the tournament as to who is allowed to come on the court or not. I don't think we've had a change during the tournament. I think they have nominate for the tournament. I have to double check.
Q. Is there any plan to have these coaches mic'd when they're with the player on the court?
LARRY SCOTT: Yes. It is a requirement that they will be mic'd, or they won't be allowed to coach on court to coach. That goes to the genesis of this idea, which is this is really for fans through TV. So that's the primary motivation for it.
Again, it's voluntary, but if someone chooses to have their coach out on court, what they say will be available to television.
Q. What's the status of coaching in terms of the Grand Slams?
LARRY SCOTT: This is just a decision for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. At this point in time, I don't think the Grand Slams are considering this, but they'd have to comment.
Q. And you talk about bathroom breaks and stuff like that that the coach will be allowed to the other player. That won't count against the one per set?
LARRY SCOTT: Correct.
Q. Can you update us on the Williams sisters' status vis-a-vis Indian Wells?
LARRY SCOTT: Yes.
Q. I'm also curious sort of where injury plays into this. If I hurt my shoulder and can't go to Madrid, what does the tour do about that?
LARRY SCOTT: Williams and Indian Wells, first of all, the suspension rule is only in effect for players in the top 10. So assuming Venus and Serena are in the top 10, which is looking good for 2009 at this point in time, they will both be signed up and expected to play at Indian Wells.
They both said they're not planning on playing Indian Wells, so they will be subject to the same rules as every other player, which means that to avoid suspension they will have to be available to do in-market appearances, promotional activities as designated by the tour in consultation with the tournament, either during the week of the tournament or at three other possible times during the year that we will designate.
So the rule will apply to them vis-a-vis Indian Wells the same way it would apply to any other top 10 player at any one of these other tournaments. In terms of if a player is -- I want to make sure I understand the question, injured and can't go to Madrid...
Q. Player says they're injured. My knee hurts.
LARRY SCOTT: Right. So if they're injured, sometimes injuries are such that they can't play but they're able to fly, and so we'll encourage the player to go to Madrid to see their fans, to front up in front of the media and express that they would have played if they could have. They're there.
Tournaments have found that very helpful. I found that it eliminates any sort of question about the credibility of the injury when a player is able to go.
But one of the reasons the suspension rule has taken a long time to develop, there have been some legitimate concerns expressed to us by the players, which sometimes the illnesses or injuries that don't allow the player to fly. We could list a few that would not be best interests of the players in terms of their health and well-being forcing them to get on an airplane.
That's why we came up with this other opportunity where we'll designate three other times during the year when they're not playing that they could go to Madrid. We'll leave it up to the player. One of the things I like about this, and I'm sort of out of the business of playing God and deciding was something a legitimate injury or not, because it's an impossible situation in my chair to be in. Leaving it up to the player. You decide whether you're capable of being in Madrid that week or not; your choice.
If not, we're going to give you three other opportunities during the year that work for the tournament in terms of in-market promotion with their sponsors or in terms of previewing the next year to be there.
Sort of the way our board's looking at it, is a player really has to want to get suspended to get suspended under this rule. They'll be given a few different bites of the apple to do that in-market appearance, and so we're very, very comfortable that the suspension rule -- you know, the stick is there. They're going to have to show their commitment to these tournaments in one way or another. Hopefully playing, but in not playing, in other ways.
Q. Have the sisters been informed of all this? Have they given any indication of what they might do or not do?
LARRY SCOTT: Venus is on our player council, so she has spent, you know, probably 30 hours on Roadmap-related issues through our player council over the last year.
I've had several hours of conversation both with she and Serena and their family and their managers about it, and, well, I'll let them speak for themselves.
But, you know, they've told me at this point in time they're still planning on not playing for the reasons that they have.
I'm hopeful that they will play. I'd like to see them play. I'm also respectful of their individual decisions and their sense of sort of what happened.
But I think they respect that we need to have rules that apply evenly to all players, and this rule will be applied to them around Indian Wells the same way it would be to any top 10 player around any of these tournaments.
So I think while I'm hopeful they'll play, at this point in time I don't think they'll play based on what they told me. But they will have to participate in these activities to avoid suspension.
Q. Don't you find it a little awkward if they were to be promoting a tournament that they're pretty much against appearing at? Is there any way that you could come to an agreement with them about this, especially if that's their punishment?
LARRY SCOTT: Yeah, I'm confident we'll figure out a way to, you know, utilize their in-market appearance in a way that's good for the sport and not negative for them or negative for the tournament. I don't know exactly what that will be yet or when and where we'll do it, but I'm sure we can -- you know, they've got a big, positive impact on the sport. I'm sure we can figure out things for them to do that are good for tennis in Southern California, good for the tournament, without being something that's embarrassing for them or the tournament.
Q. I remember once in Rome, Becker, the men's tournament, he was supposed to come and didn't. Then he came one day to do sort of press conference. Just an appearance. The same thing you're asking. It's not really the same. I mean, for the tournament, the damage is still very -- even if he talks half an hour to the media or shakes hands with the sponsors, it doesn't make at all difference, I think.
LARRY SCOTT: I certainly agree with you. I don't mean to suggest that if a player comes and does media it's the same as playing, and they certainly won't be off the hook for all the penalties. I was really just talking about the spectrum of suspensions.
If a player can't play one of the these premier mandatory or the $2 million premier tournaments, for the first time there will be a zero pointer for those tournaments, and they're going to lose a significant bonus pool and be subject potentially to fines.
What they can mitigate is the suspension and the fine if they show up, but they cannot mitigate the zero pointer, nor the loss of bonus pool. So there's still a lot of reasons for the player to play. We want them to play. We don't want them to show up and do a media tour.
So there's more of a stick than there's ever been in terms of the ranking and in terms of financial penalties. But this whole suspension thing is a completely new dimension, and it's, you know, seen as a very Draconian move to potentially suspend the player and deprive fans the opportunity to see a player.
So with that, we wanted to make sure that there are ample opportunities for a player to get out of a suspension.
Q. You're very close to Venus, and to Serena on the one hand, and you know, Ray, Charlie and Steve at Indian Wells. Our two greatest players of our generation have not been playing our greatest tournament in the West. What efforts have you made to bring the parties together to find some kind of middle ground so this really problematic situation can be solved so the fans can see these great players?
LARRY SCOTT: It's a very unfortunate situation. I'm hopeful they would play, and I've spent many hours talking to both Venus and Serena and their families to really try to understand. I wasn't there when the 2001 incident happened, so I've really tried to understand their perspective.
I've spent a lot of time with the management of the Indian Wells tournament. At this stage, we are where we are certainly not for any lack of effort or desire on my side to see them play again. But I do respect their, you know, their point of view and how they feel. I've tried to find, in the crafting of the overall rule, a diplomatic solution that allows the sport to move forward with a suspension rule, and at the same time to allow for, you know, certain individual and extreme circumstances like we have in this case.
Q. One of the candidates for the ATP job has said very publicly that players shouldn't have to play where they don't want to play. They should play when they want, where, how they want to play. What do you feel about that?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, I think, as you can tell from our Roadmap plans, I clearly believe that the growth of the sport is around, you know, having some rhyme and reason to where the players play, and that the growth of the sport will come from having the best players playing together on the biggest stages.
That does require a player commitment system. So certainly, you know, what you recited as inconsistent, with all the feedback I've ever gotten from the people writing our checks for our sport, from television broadcasters and sponsors.
Q. If you were to offer the new ATP Tour any advice as to how to bring players and tournaments together before, what would that nugget of advice be?
LARRY SCOTT: I'm not going to offer any advice until I get asked.
Q. I'm asking.
LARRY SCOTT: Unless you're the new CEO of the ATP, I'm not going to answer at this point in time. I think it really comes down to what the ATP board sets as the priorities for the new CEO. It's not clear what those are yet.
Q. Are you interested in that job?
LARRY SCOTT: I've been asked by a few people, and, you know, I've given the clear answer I'm going to give today. I'm not interested in leaving the WTA to go back to the ATP.
Q. Is it true that Sony Ericsson is not going to renew the contract? Do you know anything about it?
LARRY SCOTT: Not to my knowledge. I've had some great meetings here with them and with their CEO over the next few days. I think they're happy with the engagement that runs through 2010, so it's a long way off before we have the first discussions. Honestly, there hasn't been the first word of discussion about it. It wouldn't be normal to even have a word about it until a year before it expires. So I don't expect we'll talk about it until the end of 2009.
Q. You just mentioned you wouldn't want to leave the WTA to go to the ATP. Would you be interested in performing both jobs?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, there has been some talk about that, and certainly it's not a new idea in tennis that the organization should figure out a way to come together. I've long been an advocate of closer collaboration between the governing bodies, and particularly between the ATP and WTA.
As you can see by what we're announcing in between, we're sort of following through with some clear and significant steps to align the tours at the top level.
The fact that the top 13 tournaments in tennis are going to be combined or back to back, the fact that 10 of them are equal prize money, I think I'll let my actions speak louder than any words about how deeply I believe that's the best way for us to present the sport that's in men's players' interests, women's players' interests.
Beyond that, we've done a lot in terms of not just with the ATP, but the Grand Slams and the ITF on things like antidoping, anticorruption. We're going to be making an announcement over the next couple of days about a joint portal for online presentation of tennis between the ATP and WTA.
So I am absolutely a believer that not only are we moving more toward one sport, even though we've got two separate regimes, but that it will continue in that direction because the market wants it, our fans want it.
I do think it's inevitable that at some point in time the organizations will come closer together. Whether that ultimately results in a merger or not is too early and too hard to predict, but I am confident that we'll continue to move in this direction. Whether there's a chance for a quantum leap on the short term rather than the long term, you know, I don't know.
Q. I think 7 of your top 10 players are from one country, Russia, that hasn't obviously been mentioned. Can you just explain why that market doesn't seem to be one you can capitalize on? Can you talk about this, is Jeff Kessler involved in something like the revenue sharing, and did your consultation with him have any impact?
LARRY SCOTT: First, Russia, it's an important market right now. We have only one tournament there in Moscow. It's a very important tournament. It will be like the biggest tournament like before our end-of-year Championships. We haven't seen -- it's in Moscow, the Kremilin Cup. It's a combined event with the men.
There really hasn't been interest coming from them in other tournaments. We haven't gotten applications as part of our Roadmap. We didn't get any additional applications from the Russian market.
Vis-a-vis Jeff, he has been involved in the involvement and details of this as an advisor to our player board representatives. Our board is made up of three tour director representatives, three players board representatives, a representative from the ITF, and myself. He provided some counsel to our player board reps on the finer points, on the details of how the rules got written around this revenue sharing plan.
For those of you who don't know him, he's a very experienced labor lawyer that's advised the NFL Players Association. He's brought experience which is very helpful.
Q. Market is very important, and tradition is, also. I see going WTA going a lot to Dubai, Qatar, Shanghai, Beijing. Aren't you worried a little bit that you're going to lose some contact, let's say, with the old European and more traditional sites? Because in Qatar and Dubai, for instance, the crowds are little different from the ones we are used to.
LARRY SCOTT: It's a balancing act to be sure. I think -- I guess a lot of businesses and a lot of sports wrestle with this all the time. There's no question Europe is the bedrock for tennis right now in terms of where our players come from, where the media interest is. Frankly, our biggest sponsor, our biggest broadcast partners are Europeans. Europe is hugely important to us, and we have more tournaments in Europe than any other region. I don't see that changing.
By the same token, I think any sport wants to balance that with being opportunistic and look for growth opportunities. It's one of the great things about tennis: Our global nature. The fact is that there aren't too many sports that are so popular in Europe and the United States that also work in India and China, and this really hit home for me at the Olympics recently when you see how our athletes, along with the NBA, where the biggest celebrities amongst the athletes at the Olympics.
I think that's one of our greatest assets, that tennis is a global sport. I think we're submitted to further global development, but not at the expense of Europe.
There are also certain things not going to change in tennis. The Grand Slams are the anchors of the calendar, so it will always be that between Miami and Roland Garros that we're in Europe on clay. Obviously with Wimbledon there, I think it will always be that we've got strong indoor tournaments at the end of the year. We've obviously placed our indoor Championships to be on the same zone as Europe.
I think the basic framework of the tour calendar, as long as the Grand Slams are placed where they're placed, will stay the way it is. There's not going to be a big shift in terms of where the tournaments go. I think there are some small changes here to be opportunistic about developing markets, but I don't think you're going to see any radical change as far as where the circuit goes.
Q. The situation of exhibitions, you're lengthening that off-season at the end of the year which can open the door for exhibitions. You've got exhibitions up against legitimate sanctioned tournaments. What's the view on that? What's happening with that sort of thing?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, let me talk about the off-season separately from during the season, if I can. In terms of the off-season, the reason why we created a longer off-season was primarily based on the players' health and well-being.
You know, through our research with our medical team and a lot of talk with players, they felt they just needed more of a break. So that was the impetus for it.
We'll be watching it carefully. If it turns out that it's turned into the silly season like in other sports and the players are playing exhibitions all over the world and not resting and they're starting the year injured, I guess we might reconsider. But I don't expect that to be the case.
In terms of during the year, there are really very few exhibitions these days in tennis. It's very different than it was 10, 15 years ago, and I think the ranking system and other things have contributed to that. So we don't see it being any kind of epidemic or problem in the sport. We do have rules that are, I think, appropriately protective of tournaments and their market in terms of when players can play exhibitions.
There's a time limit in a certain geographic protection around our tournaments, which is appropriate. But I think also there does need to be room for players to pursue exhibitions, opportunities, where it's not going to hurt our tournaments.
So, again, we try to strike a balance.
Q. You've got the situation start of the year with an exhibition in Hong Kong opposite one of your big tournaments in Sydney.
LARRY SCOTT: Yep. And I know there are also special events within Australia, as well. I think that's the nature of the beginning of the season. I don't really see that changing.
Q. I had a question about the revenue sharing issue and the mechanics of making that honest and above board and checkable. We just saw obviously in China a case at the Olympics where there's been a lot of questions raised about the veracity and authenticity of the documentation of the age of gymnasts. It's a bit of a leap, but I'm wondering, as you bring in outside auditors to do the math on this revenue sharing at places all over the world with different sorts of government, what's your level of confidence that you're going to get the honest, legitimate data you need to tell the players, This is your rightful share?
LARRY SCOTT: There are definitely some unique challenges we have compared to the U.S. team sports that do this. I mean, as you rightly say, when you go around the world there's different accounting standards. So the rules governing this are going to be about this thick in terms of a common reporting standard.
We're going to spend much more money than we'd like to spend in terms of an international accounting firm to provide a standard. But the fundamental principle behind it is change in revenues. The biggest revenue basket is sponsorship, television, ticket sales. There are some other ancillaries. But in tennis, those are really the three.
TV revenues come through the tour, so we know what those are. Ticket sales, you can count the number of people in the stands. You know what the published ticket prices are. If something is way off, it will be very easy, I think, to catch.
Sponsorship can be a little bit more difficult, but the accounting will allow us to see all contracts and, you know, there will be the equivalent of a death penalty if someone's caught cheating.
So, you know, I'm confident that, you know, it's a fair system. I don't think there will be much incentive for tournaments to try to be too clever in terms of the reporting. I actually think -- I'm sure we'll learn a lot along the way. This is our first endeavor in this area. But I'm not concerned about that.
Q. Can I bring you back to the on-court coaching situation. I think you said earlier it's kind of a fan-driven element, that you want to unlock the door, so to speak, of the secrets of the game. Are you at all concerned that in fact it might have the opposite effect, and the mystique of the game, 1 v. 1, is going to be somehow damaged by having someone walk on to court tell the player how she should play?
LARRY SCOTT: One of the benefits of taking some time to do this, is we've had a good opportunity to sort of watch it play out when it's been in test mode and talk to fans, talk to TV broadcasters. No, we haven't gotten any feedback that gives us that concern.
Q. You also said that the on-court coaching will be available for television. What about...
LARRY SCOTT: I think in terms of what they say, hopefully the TV feed will be available -- I don't think we're planning on doing transcripts or anything like that. But I'm hopeful that the TV feed is available.
I think what we have also found is that, you know, oftentimes, you know, journalists will go up to coaches after the match and ask about the interaction. What did you say to the player? What is their feedback?
Different people have different views about whether it's a good thing or not, but I do think it brings the coach and the strategy more into the mix in terms of the reporting or analysis of what happened during the match.
Q. For several years there has been talk of a commissioner, of bringing the two, WTA and ATP under one umbrella of a commissioner. Is that the kind of position that you would be interested in? Is that what you're going towards as you mention this?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, I'm not going toward anything. Very focused on sort of what I'm doing with the WTA. As you can tell, we've got big plans that have taken a lot of time in rolling them out successfully. I'm for whatever is good for the game.
I believe what's good for the men's tour is good for the women's tour and vice versa. I've tried to move our organizations closer together.
The idea of a commissioner has been discussed for some time. What that means, what the structure -- a lot of questions. It's a serious issue, one that would require a lot of deliberation within the ATP and WTA.
I don't know if that -- I don't know whether there's going to be as a result of the leadership discussions. The ATP are having another chance to take a step in that direction or not, so I want to be respectful of the ATP board.
We have a good board. We have the players very engaged. I think they want to take their time right now to really think about everything that's going on there, what they need in a leader, different structures.
I want to really give them a chance to really think this through and think about what's in the best interest of the ATP right now.
Q. Along those lines just as a follow-up, years ago there was the feeling among the WTA players if they did get too closely aligned with the men that they would in essence be swallowed up. Is that no longer a fear, or is it a still a bit of a concern?
LARRY SCOTT: I certainly sensed some of that when I first started five years ago. I think it's a very different environment now. I've spent a lot of time over at last year or two talking to the players about how they feel about combined events, joint initiative with the ATP.
I think now that equal prize money has been achieved thanks to Roland Garros and Wimbledon, I think that's kind of put to bed some of those historical anxieties about equal -- I think there's now really a chance for the sport, for, you know, men and women to be more equal partners in some of these initiatives that we're doing in a much different way than it was five years ago.
Q. What day was the final approval on the on-court coaching?
LARRY SCOTT: That was at our board meeting last week and those meetings concluded on Wednesday.
Q. Can I ask, it's a little bit off the principle. Serbian Federation tried for a long time to capitalize on the top status of the two players. There wasn't any response. Is there anything, can you say, reflect on that?
LARRY SCOTT: Yes. I've had a lot of good conversation with the president of Serbian Tennis Federation, as well as, yep, our friend Slobodan, as well as our top players, Ana, Jelena, their families.
We just haven't been able to find a spot on the calendar, and at a time of year that makes sense at the right level where it's ripe. I'm hopeful we will.
Obviously I know there's a strong interest in Serbia. We'd love to have a tour event there. I think it has to be a at the right level in a spot where Ana and Jelena want to play, otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose.
With our new structure next year, there is precious few times during the year where they're kind of free to play that's not already taken by higher level tournaments. I'm confident we'll get there at some point in time, but we haven't found that opportunity yet.
Q. Is it more difficult to deal with ATP or with ITF? (laughter.)
LARRY SCOTT: I'm going to pass on that we've made great progress with both organizations.
End of FastScripts