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October 19, 2003

Mark Miles

Ion Tiriac


ION TIRIAC: Well, I would say Ladies and Gentlemen, I see that there are a lot of gentlemens, and I hope we are more ladies, because with you guys I'm not getting anywhere for so many years now. Anyhow, thank you for coming. The reason to do this discussion with your people is because I felt that the tournament has started and I would like to have even your impression than my monologues. His Excellency, Mr. Mark Miles, has come for the first day and is going to stay for the duration. That shows somehow the importance of myself - no, this event, excuse me (laughter). Saying that, I don't believe that it's too much to say we know all the players that they withdraw. I hope we are not going to go over them again. I would prefer to let Mark doing his part of the speech, then let's have a friendly discussion, how we usually do have. Be careful what the hell you write!

MARK MILES: Thank you. I know there are matches out there you should be covering, so we won't be long. I think it's a Tiriac tradition that, if not at least at the end of the tournament, if we're here, we try to talk together about how the event went, and often to open it up, as well. I'm happy to do that today. First, just a few comments about this event. Obviously, it's always hazardous to make predictions at the beginning of a week. But I was here last year. I guess I tried to kill myself walking through a glass wall on the last day I was here. They've put a big planter in front of it. It will be unlikely that I do it again. Having survived that, I do remember the event. I can tell you I was astonished at the quality of the organization these facilities, and at what Ion and his team and the City of Madrid have accomplished in such a short time. Having been here today, it looks like not only they're doing it again, but as is his style, I'm sure they reviewed everything from last year, and their commitment to continuing to improve is obvious. I assume you all haven't heard this before, so I'll take just a minute at what I saw when I got the tour today, starting with the fact that they managed to go in and lower the court surface by six to eight meters to improve sight lines for the crowds that are here, and to increase the total number of seats to something like 10,000. I don't think I remember ever anywhere seeing permanent leather seats in a stadium of this size. Certainly a luxury that must send a signal to the fans in Madrid that Ion wants to take care of them, expects them to have a great experience. There were 6,000 people here both yesterday and Saturday, which is a great start for this tournament in only its second year. It's sold out, I understand, on Saturday and Sunday. If we ran out of here right now, we could compete for something like the 200 tickets left for sale on Friday. I think it is very important and very significant that TVE here in Spain is covering one match two hours live primetime each night, if I understand correctly, as well as one of the semifinals and a final. Throughout the world, we're getting about 140 countries covering this tournament in one form or another. I got a call I think on October 3rd, on the day that it happened, that the newly elected mayor of Madrid had confirmed publicly his intention to continue the project, which Ion announced to us a few years ago, to go beyond this fantastic facility and to build a kind of Taj Mahal for tennis. They are pursuing their dream of having an absolutely world-class facility, which really could accommodate indoor tennis, outdoor tennis. I haven't heard much about grass, but otherwise we could name the surface, name the conditions, and Ion and the officials here appear ready to host the biggest possible event. I know that Ion continues to do all the right things, to explore the possibility of finding a top tier WTA event. We continue to believe that while it is not easy, when we have the opportunities that work on the calendar where you have the kind of facilities that are required to do it right, to have combined top-tier men and women events, something like the 10-day format we have in Indian Wells, is a great statement for the game. So we're encouraging that effort. Those are really my comments about the tournament. Because I'm sure it will be about a second before I get a comment or a question about some of the stuff that was written initially in the UK yesterday, perhaps I'll just make a couple comments before being asked, then we can talk about whatever you wish. We at the ATP know that we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the sport, and we take it seriously. We take it as seriously or more seriously than anything else that we do. A few years ago when cricket experienced its problems, we began to be very focused on gambling. We were then, and we are now, determined to be knowledgeable, to be proactive, and to do whatever can be done to ensure that we are, in fact, protecting the integrity of the sport. Back then, I think about the end of the year 2001, we changed our rule, having looked at the rules of other organizations in sport, and we made it tough, and yet I think appropriate. Financially, if a player were found guilty of gambling would pay a $100,000 fine, plus whatever might have been involved in the wagering, and could - and I assure you would - be suspended from the sport for as long as up to three years. You are tennis people, so you know three years is a lifetime. That is really a capital sentence in our sport. Nevertheless, over this time period, there has been an explosion in Internet gambling in sport. I happened to be home, which is not very often, on a Sunday night, a very important US primetime news show called 60 Minutes on CBS featured a very prominent investigation into Internet gambling. It pointed out that essentially this is a societal problem which is facilitated by technology, which the US Congress is acting to try to prevent, as are our governments around the world, and yet so far they've failed. It has continued to grow at exponential rates, and the technology makes it very easy for anybody who wants to make a bet to do so on almost any sport. We did not invite punters into this sport. If there's anything further that we can do to escort them out, we'd be happy to do that. We do not think the existence of that technology, the ability for people to freely bet on sports is a good thing for society, but obviously a difficult thing to control. We are aware, and frankly have been aware for some time, that there are rumors, some rumors primarily in the gambling industry, about some irregular betting patterns in tennis. We are doing everything we can do to collect all the information possible about what goes on out there in a big, decentralized cyber world. I believe there's no other step we can take at this time, other than that which has been done. I simply would pledge to the sporting world that if we get to a point where we have solid information about anything untoward happening in our sport, we will act and we will act very decisively. I suspect that that would be clear to the public if and when we got to that point. So that's really a general statement. I hope you take from it the seriousness with which we take the information that's out there. I wouldn't say to you that everything that I've read so far has been accurate and consistent with our information, but we are aware of the rumors and we are doing what we can to track down any information and follow it wherever it might lead.

Q. Obviously, we will ask some questions about your tournament in a minute. If we could just follow up on this subject, obviously. Do you think in an ideal world you'd like to see a ban on betting on individual matches? I don't really see how you can police inside information getting out, and it cannot be the fault of anyone directly involved with a player, information about injuries and sickness, what have you, that gets out. I don't know how you can stop it. But tennis is the one that will get the kickback.

MARK MILES: In an ideal world, I wouldn't want to see any betting on tennis - individual matches, team matches, doubles matches, mixed doubles matches, any of it. How to pull that off is a whole other question, and like I said, one that governments are struggling to come to terms with. Frankly, so far nobody has any legally enforceable and practical solutions to literally making it impossible to bet. I would say I have an enormous amount of confidence in our players. I had the opportunity to be in the locker room a bit today. For the most part, the reaction that you see across the board, I'm sure you'll have your chance to talk to everybody who is here that is playing, it has been one of disbelief. These guys from my youngest son's age work every day to make it as a professional tennis player. You don't make it if you don't have a lot of pride, if you don't have a lot of discipline and professionalism. I suppose anything's possible in some respects, but I believe that our guys, the athletes in tennis, are among the cleanest in any sport anywhere, and have over the years that I've been involved shown me great strength of character.

Q. The agreement you've signed with Betfair, the British exchange Internet company, could you elaborate on what that is going to provide to you, what sort of information that is going to give you?

MARK MILES: Everybody understands the premise, the background of the question. We were able to have an agreement, whereas I understand it, we're not the only sport that has been able to get this sort of arrangement with a major, I think, UK-based sports exchange, and it provides simply that they can provide us, and they do provide us, with detailed information about the accounts that they have, and gambling activity related to tennis, ultimately, at least in some cases, we will know the names on the credit cards and the accounts which are involved, and we will be able to track accounts against the betting activity, the handle, in US parlance, on any individual match. We have a lot of confidence that that's an important source of information for us.

Q. You've made clear what would happen if a name on one of those accounts were a player. What, however, if it was a known associate of that player, what would the punishment be?

MARK MILES: As I mentioned, we changed our rules in I think the end of 2001. While I think toughening them with respect to the penalties, we also broadened them. I'm sure Nicola or someone in front of me can give you the exact language. I don't have it in front of us. It provides for us to take whatever sanctions against family members, coaches, trainers, meaning their physio trainers, and really anybody associated with the game. If we ever got to the point where we could demonstrate anybody that falls under the net of that rule, had violated that rule, you wouldn't see them around ATP tennis tournaments.

Q. That would be sanctions against those individuals and the player?

MARK MILES: I believe the sanctions also apply to the player. We should get that out, we should look at it carefully. For sure it's the player. I'm just saying that would be a coach looking for work, too, and not around a tennis event.

Q. Is it true you made an investigation about the Kafelnikov/Vicente match last week in Lyon?

MARK MILES: No. I read that and I think that -- at least it was implied in one of the articles. That's not accurate. It's not unusual for us to have on-site supervisors watch matches or parts of matches to make sure that players, in their judgment, are giving their best efforts, consistent with that rule, which is a different rule and different standard perhaps than the gambling situation. I can tell you somebody did take a look at that match to see whether Yevgeny, both players, were giving their best efforts. There was a conclusion on-site, this is not an office-based question, this is a code violation issue with respect to best efforts, that Yevgeny, he may not have played his best tennis, but he was giving a professional effort.

Q. Where are we in terms of improvements on last year, vis-a-vis ticket sales? What are your feelings about how it's going at the moment?

ION TIRIAC: He's very kind to ask me that question. We get from sex, drugs and rock'n roll to tennis tournament, that's very nice. Before we go to that, I want to make a comment to our boss here and your questions and so on. Mr. Mark Miles might be too young to remember that when we did, because I was a big artist, you remember, a big actor, we did fiction in the players movie with Dean Martin, Jr. fixing a finalist of Wimbledon, Vilas winning the Wimbledon, fixing up the matches in his early days and so on. That was called fiction. Now, from Jules Vern until today, a lot of fiction becomes reality. I don't believe that we have to discuss these things in this room. I believe that your MI-5, MI-25 or 60, you are very good, you Brits, with Mr. Bush on finding out things and doing things. That's fraud. That's criminal. They just have to go to prison, whoever they are. I don't believe that in the democratic world you can say the uncle of the uncle of Mr. John Biscuit who just happens to play tennis and he was in family and the uncle was in London, he made a bet of 5 pounds and gets 150 pounds because that guy had a blister on his left foot. That's difficult to get that. But exactly like in doping and drug users, that is not an offense that is a crime, that is punished by law. So I wish to God to find out not a tennis player, any somebody else or whatever, who does this practice. And at that time, you guys maybe remember that I was the only one at the Olympics in Sydney, before the Olympics, to come out and say, "I have an athlete that is positive, and this athlete is never going to be ever selected for my team, he's on his way home, thank you very much, good-bye." I believe that was the best thing I ever did in my life. The press appreciated. We have transparency and we are realistic and we have to handle that. Saying that, in my country, it's very simple. I am coming with the law out that the use of doping is the use of drugs, and they just have to do their time. The Americans, I learn very little from them, but they say, "If you don't have the time, don't do the crime." Is that correct?


ION TIRIAC: So saying that, I don't think it's a sport problem or is a tennis problem. Is a society problem, and that problem has to be dealt not only by ATP, ITF, Grand Slams, TPL or WTA, I don't know how many organization we still have, but has to be done by law. The legality of this thing has to be challenged and the use of this thing has to be challenged, like anything that is Internet. Internet opened the Pandora box with everything. Saying that, I believe we have to close this subject. As far as I am concerned, with all respect to extennis player, excoach, exmanager, expromoter, exeverything in this sport, I don't like somebody to use doping, I don't like somebody to be a crook, because that is going to damage my position in sports. Then the guy that is the chief of Telefonica is going to ask me, "What am I investing for? What kind of sport are you?" Saying that is very, very difficult, you know, to make speculations. It's easy to make speculation, but it's very difficult to pinpoint out. Britain is probably the largest country in the world to do this kind of bettings. So saying that, I believe that is the British authorities who has not only to put the grab on it, but to catch him and put him behind bars. Saying that, coming back to the tournament, we are not wrong thinking of Madrid. First of all, once again, I want, and I will congratulate these people, the speed, the quality and so on. You have the only hall in this world that has 10,000 seats, and they are 80% retractable. With the computer, 80% of the seats in minutes, they are pulling out and this hall is made twice as big for different other activities. The quality of each seat in this hall, and it's not my merit, it's the people who design and produce it, so on, with all respect, you don't have at Wimbledon the seats you have here. How much they pay for me, don't ask me, because I hate even to ask or to find out. But what I say, it's very positive. The hall looks better than last year. It's permanent now. Are the works finished? No, are not. Next year you are going to have the second court completely finished, an indoor court with certain meter ceiling, so it's complete. We sold out Saturday, Sunday. I understand we sold out on Friday right now. Yes, in the afternoon, the people are not coming as much as they might work. We are not here in Indian Wells or Key Biscayne that they take the little thermos and come for a day of tennis. That's beautiful. I really appreciate that. It's not the same way here. The people are working from time to time here. From that point of view, the quality of the event, and now I am going from the center court where we are behind the control to do anything else, we try to make the life as competitive and positive as possible to each player. The quality of the event, say what you have to say, and for that reason we sold out the boxes in advance. We sold out the boxes at the very, very cheap and competitive prices compared with other tennis events. I mean, a boxholder here has a full hospitality for a week, from 1:00 in the afternoon all the way to 1:00 in the morning, and he has it at the quality of a two-star Michelin, invented by the French, but I put a more there, two and a half stars, just to make the French be jealous. Saying that, what I am hoping, I am hoping what they call Casa Magica, the Spanish, and on the 3rd of October in front of 300 people, the new mayor confirmed it was going to go ahead, Olympics or no Olympics, Madrid need it, is going to be finish as per our contract. And I hope that this tournament is going to become what is called men and women. This country deserves it. You are going to see tonight a very young player who made his way through this tournament only through a wildcard. I never saw him, but I heard things about him that 16 years in this world there are not too many to play like him. So they are producing the players. We hope another Arantxa is going to come along and this tournament is going to be 10 days, 9 days, 8 days. I believe that the Grand Slams, they don't like very much to say two weeks. But two weeks minus something would be enough to do a very selective tournament.

Q. Percentage-wise, where are you sort of in terms of last year? How much improvement is there in ticket sales and boxes?

ION TIRIAC: I believe we couldn't have 50% improvement because we didn't have space for 50%. But I believe we are 10, 15%, and we are getting close to 90%. You know, if I would have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, probably another thousand or two thousand sold, I would have been there to the capacity, and thinking about putting another thousand seats next year.

Q. Mark, I think you were present at meetings last week in Miami about the calendar, with various elements of tennis. How important is it that you get a calendar that is easily understandable, that the public can respond to, that makes tennis easier to promote, and perhaps we'll see more of these events in the future that Ion wants to promote here in Madrid?

MARK MILES: I think it's very important and I think that the process that's been established this year is constructive and helpful toward that end. We're working really right now, the focus has been on getting out the 2005 calendar. In making a calendar, you have both kind of internal considerations that are tennis-issue driven, if you will, and then you have external issues. How does it all stack up so it's clearer, cleaner, easier to follow for the fans around the world? In 2005, for better, for worse, I think all of us, this is the women, the men, the slams, the ITF, have been more focused on more incremental internal change. The first big questions were, in making the calendar, it flows around the scheduling of the slams. As all of you know, there was a lot of discussion about that. Then Wimbledon ultimately announced that they would not pursue moving for 2005, and Australia has said the same. So the big bones on the carcass of tennis will be the same in that respect. We are I think effectively there with an understanding between the ITF and the ATP about Davis Cup schedule for 2005. I'm sure it's not going to get announced here, and perhaps not until we release an entire calendar. I'm not sure what the ITF's plans will be. But I think it's difficult to schedule Davis Cup given the nature of the Davis Cup competition, but I think that the spirit in this discussion of cooperation has been good around the table. We are well along the way into entering into an agreement with our Masters Series tournaments to continue to pool our television rights for the next three years so that that would say, barring a tournament not meeting certain objective quality standards, they would continue to be Masters Series events for that period of time. So I don't think there's going to be, you know, a big, discernible difference from the outside fan's perspective. But I think, again, this process has been good in a lot of respects, and in some respects broadly rebuilding and getting further in rapport and levels of communication between the various entities. We've all said to ourselves then, you know, 2006, which is a long way off in some ways, but if you're talking about any kind of important change, wholesale change, it's not far off. That's really the first opportunity to see if there is another model. As recently as the meetings in Miami, last week or the week before last, I think there was, again, an openness that facilitated a real kind of brainstorming that I haven't seen in 13 years. So all that's positive. But a different model is a long way off. There's so many considerations. To me it's just so simplistic to call it, to boil all the different considerations down into the alphabet soup of the different groups. That's not what it's about. That has something to do with it, but that's not fundamentally what it's about. What you're fundamentally concerned about is how the men's and women's tours, how the professional games, strike a balance between the biggest possible events, and some number of them on the one hand, which is very positive, grows the game, creates a lot of impact, more rivalries, important head-to-head matches, and on the other end of the spectrum, very important to our game historically, to ensure there is enough tennis in enough countries. I'm sure most of you have heard me give the example of Auckland. To me the fact that the tournament in Auckland is not only important to funneling players into the Australian Open, but it's the biggest annual sporting event in New Zealand. That's important to tennis, in our view. So, you know, you could invent a kind of Formula 1 circuit, saying there would be X number of events, everybody would play those, otherwise you're relegated down to some minor league level. But I think it's pretty clear that across the board in all the organizations that are involved in these discussions, that model is going to get rejected. You might make a lot more profit if you owned it, but we believe you couldn't possibly replace the overall impressions and momentum and benefits developmentally for the game across the globe than a broader base of a pyramid creates. It's more balancing those considerations. There's a lot of interest in having more coed events at the top. But all those things are tough to do. At least we're at the table now. When we say, "Leave your organizational ID card at the door, come in and just talk off the record, nobody's going to be quoted." I'm not going to call one of their constituents and say he said he might think this is appropriate. We're going to really see if there's a way to kind of get some informal view and then figure out what would have to happen to implement it.

ION TIRIAC: I have a little bit different vision here than Mark.

MARK MILES: You're looking through green glasses, that would do it (laughter).

ION TIRIAC: Mr. Bush, it's my turn.

MARK MILES: Do you think it's his fashion coordinator giving him green glasses or the reflection off his tie?

ION TIRIAC: What do you know about class? I think you have to look in both directions, down-up, up-down. I stand up again, but I am too old for the Grand Slams. That's what it is. Grand Slam, God give him this right, is there for good now, and he has to stay there. They are going to rule, more or less, what is around there, okay. But then you have to have tennis at some level. The tennis is not finished with eight weeks of the year. Just because the Australians think they are on the other side of the world, they are going to be better than anything else, all and all. Saying that, you have to consider The Masters Series, the way they are promoted, the way the money is put in. The Grand Slams, they need The Masters Series, as well, to promote sport as a global sport. Now, coming lower than The Masters Series, and I promote tournaments that are lower than The Masters Series, I put $1 million somewhere in the middle of Europe, is not easy these days because not of tennis, but economy, the global economy. But those things are going to come in the third, fourth category, particularly the little one. Sure, Auckland is important, Bucharest is even more important than Auckland, population of 23 million, we had couple players, US Open winner, so on. But in the world today, those tournaments have to be much lower in the money. They are not pay guarantee. They are not interested to pay guarantee. They cannot pretend to be the world championship or anything else. Who comes comes, plays for that money. That would be possible for Mr. Miles to decide, to put four of them in the same week, or even five, and the players are going to split and earn their money and everything else. Going even lower, the experience of 2003, the experience in Romania is fabulous. For years, we didn't have time. We played 11 tournaments of $10,000. Believe me, that made a difference between day and night at that level. You have 120 players from Brazil, Argentina, Spain, all over, each week driving 100 kilometers, playing other events. Thousands of those have to be played. Now I have to come back to the Davis Cup. I don't know, once again, and everybody didn't even want to think about it, if wouldn't be an idea Davis Cup finals to be played every second year, and the qualifying for those finals to be played home and away by teams that they need to promote their sport, they need not only to have Romania jumping up and down, up and down, up and down, and they are going to play Switzerland, if they win, is the result, if they lose, this he go down again, so on. But those are going to make more room and is going to make that. Now, how is the man saying? Can everybody leave his hat outside and come at the table and say, "Okay." I was involved in this steering committee, whatever they call it. I say, "Okay, white sheet of paper, Grand Slam, whatever you want. Just put it down there." Then come The Masters Series, then together with the ITF and the Davis Cup and this and that and that. Wouldn't be nice at the Davis Cup every single good player to play that? Would have been the time to call it Davis Cup, world championship, whatever it is, teams? Maybe that would be the solution. But somebody more intelligent than I can do that. I don't want to give him ever any compliments, but until now, for good or for bad, ATP was the entity who kept these things and the tie drop, you know, like the Chinese plates. One is stopping, the other is stopping, moving one to another. That's the reason that this sport needs to be global. I need to have some substance on the global sport, not only on the four Grand Slams.

MARK MILES: I will be here all week. Thank you all.

ION TIRIAC: Thank you.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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