There has been quite a bit of talk over the last few weeks regarding the ITF and the issues of the Pro Circuit. From Tomás Buchhass’s letter to the ITF’s initial response, then to their talk of a plan for the Futures, there has been a lot happening.
The ITF has finalised their study of the results of the last months’ surveys and has started to contact the players via email in order to let them know in what consists the plan for the Pro Circuit and the outlines of the proposals that will be submitted to the ITF Board in March.
In the days following the ATP World Tour’s prize money increase, it is fantastic news to see that the ITF is finally able to follow suite.
BATennis World has received copy of the email that is being sent to the players, in its original English:
As you may know, the ITF has been undertaking a full review of the Pro Circuit structure to fully understand the current situation below Tour level and how best to: improve entry onto the performance pathway, increase prize money, raise event standards and ensure developing nations have the best opportunity to produce world class players.
That project has included a full data review and a player survey which over 8,000 players, coaches, National Associations and tournament organisers responded to.
Both have now been completed and copies are available to download from the ITF Pro Circuit website.
This invaluable project has established a number of key understandings that are helping us to make effective and necessary changes to the ITF Pro Circuit.
It is clear that while prize money levels need to rise, particularly for lower ranked players, the numbers of those competing on the Pro Circuit are unsustainably high. In 2013 there were almost 14,000 male and female players competing, of whom over 6,000 failed to earn any prize money.
The average cost, not including coaching, of competing last year was $38,800 for male players and $40,180 for female players. The distribution and levels of prize money in the professional game meant that the break even point on the combined singles and doubles earnings list (i.e. the point where average costs met actual earnings) was 336 for men and 253 for women in 2013.
The ITF believes that changes are needed to address this issue of affordability for those competing below the top 100, whilst ensuring that we do not limit the ability of all nations, especially those developing tennis nations, to offer domestic tennis opportunities for players to transition to professional tennis.
At the next ITF Board meeting in March, we will be putting forward, for approval, a series of proposed measures that we believe will help address these issues.
These proposed measures will include:
1. PROPOSED PRIZE MONEY INCREASES 2016 ONWARDS
- Men’s Pro Circuit: Initial two levels rise to 15K+H* and 25K +H*.
- Women’s Pro Circuit: Levels rise to $15k+H*, $25k+H*, $60k/$60k+H, $90k/$90k+H and $125k/$125k+H.
*Hospitality to take the form of a per diem for all players, capped at a maximum cost to the organiser of $10,000.
- TF and Grand Slam Development funds to be used to support increases in key developing nations
2. JOB OPPORTUNITIES
To ensure that the prize money increases are as effective as possible in benefiting the right players within the right ranking bands, each new prize money category will:
- Have a set number of job opportunities each week
- Be geographically spread
- Benefit from clear play down rules
3. RESTRUCTURED ENTRY TO PERFORMANCE PYRAMID
At the same time as finalising increases to prize money, the ITF sees merit in the introduction of a new entry level to the professional player pathway and is actively assessing the concept with both Tours. This level of new tournaments, offering qualifying or merit points to players to enable them to progress on to Pro Circuits, would look to:
- Ensure adequate levels of opportunity for emerging players, especially those transitioning from junior tennis
- Support domestic tennis opportunities in developing nations who may be priced out of hosting events by the proposed prize money increases
- Ensure that the gap from juniors to pros remains realistic and bridgeable for those players with high potential
- Set out a progressive pathway for players aspiring to a career as professional players
The proposed changes outlined would represent the largest investment into the entry levels of professional tennis in the Open era and would potentially allow another 150-200 players to break even and hundreds more reduce their costs and increase earnings. It is intended that changes to the structure will be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the models continue to deliver against our objectives.
The proposals have been created in conjunction with both Tours and national associations and the final details will be discussed further in January 2015 before being put to the ITF Board for final approval.
We will keep you updated on progress, but in the meantime if you have any questions or observations we would ask you to share them with us via the ITF Pro Circuit team.
This is, definitely, tremendous news for the ITF Pro Circuit players, and we can only hope that the Board will pronounce itself in favour of those proposals.