‘We can’t survive’, tennis counts the price of empty stands
The skilled circuit was shut down for 5 months in 2020 earlier than event organizers arrange biosecure bubbles for gamers and assist workers whereas holding followers away from stadiums.
The disruption has been much less extreme in 2021 however tournaments, barring the swing in Australia in February, proceed to be performed in entrance of a handful of followers at finest.
The absence of spectators has not simply robbed tournaments of ambiance and sapped the vitality of gamers who thrive on it, however has additionally had a savage affect on funds.
ATP tournaments incurred losses of between $60 and $80 million final yr, damage by last-minute cancellations, a wipeout of ticketing income in absence of spectators and a 30 % drop in proceeds from sponsorships.
And, with the added burden of expenditure on well being protocols, it has led to a discount in prize cash all the way down to 50 % of ranges earlier than the pandemic.
“With all of the estimates that now we have completed, we expect we are able to maintain this yr,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi instructed Reuters.
Gaudenzi stated sponsorship income plunged about 30 % on common because the begin of the pandemic, with the Masters 1000 occasions — the extent beneath the grand slams — counting on ticket gross sales for 45 % of their proceeds.
Herwig Straka, one in every of three members of the ATP board representing event homeowners, stated the decision on whether or not to proceed operating occasions with out followers might come all the way down to a enterprise determination.
“It is about discovering the correct stability between sufficient prize cash for gamers, particularly for lower-ranked gamers, to outlive, and likewise for tournaments to proceed,” Straka stated.
“And clearly for the smaller tournaments this problem is greater. So not solely as a enterprise but additionally as a sport we undoubtedly want spectators to return before later … we can’t survive with out having spectators.”
‘Required and applicable’
The lads’s governing physique will spend as much as $5.2 million — primarily taken from the bonus pool for the highest 12 eligible gamers on the finish of the season — to spice up prize cash at its occasions till Wimbledon.
The WTA needed to fund all the prize cash of $565,530 for its season opener in Abu Dhabi from its personal funds.
“The discount in prize cash ranges which might be in place for 2021 is just not one thing anybody needs to see,” WTA CEO Steve Simon instructed Reuters.
“Nonetheless, with the compromised income streams from ticketing and sponsorship being handled, the reductions are required and applicable.”
Earlier than her early exit from this week’s WTA 1000 occasion in Dubai, world No. 5 Elina Svitolina stated decreased purses might doubtlessly have an effect on motivation.
People John Isner and Reilly Opelka have been much less diplomatic once they hit out at ATP administration lately for not taking wage cuts whereas gamers successfully have been.
Gaudenzi stated that even within the worst case state of affairs, the ATP was nonetheless monitoring to ship 2021 prize cash ranges of about $180 million, 23 % lower than 2019.
“It is nonetheless not a horrible outcome, contemplating the challenges we face,” the Italian stated, including that almost all tournaments can be pleased to interrupt even in 2021.
With vaccines in opposition to the virus beginning to roll out, tennis bosses have been hopeful that restrictions on spectators would begin to be relaxed.
“A no-crowd system that prolonged into the longer term would require a restructuring of how sports activities usually would proceed,” stated WTA’s Simon.
“We’re starting to see a pathway for followers to start returning at restricted ranges as 2021 progresses and hopefully a big transfer in direction of full stadiums in 2022.”