In the wake of Tomás Buchhass’s open letter to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the reactions that ensued from players, coaches, journalists, and fans alike, the ITF had first issued a response to Buchhass himself, one which left many doubts as to whether or not some changes will be made.
On Monday, the Communications department of the sport’s global federation, which is in charge of the Junior, Futures, and Grand Slam tournaments, as well as the Davis Cup and wheelchair tennis, has issued a response to a coach’s email making, essentially, the same type of requests as Buchhass’s: the necessity to increase the prize money on the Pro Circuit, in both men’s and women’s tournaments, something that has not been done since… 1998! Yes, sixteen full years with tournaments at 10 and 15,000 USD in total prize money! Sixteen years in which the global economy has changed substantially, in which $10,000 spread over 32 players has become vastly insufficient.
We have received copy of the ITF’s email, in Spanish, to which we provide a translation. You can find a copy of the letter on the page of the “Indignados del tenis” (The Outraged of Tennis), a community created in the wake of Buchhass’s open letter and counting on members from all categories of the game, from players to fans, among which the 1990 French Open champion, Andrés Gómez.
“Thank you for your letter and for expressing your preoccupation regarding the prize money on the ITF Pro Circuit. We appreciate the fact that you have taken the trouble of contacting us. We would like you to know that the ITF has been working alongside the ATP and the WTA in order to study the matter of the players’ remuneration in the Pro Circuit tournaments. It is a complicated discussion, because a significant increase in prize money might result in less opportunities to compete, especially outside of Europe and North America. We think that you will agree with us that this would not be good for the development of tennis on a larger time frame. Our priority is to ensure an efficient transition from junior to senior professional with a geographically balanced expansion in order to avoid losing our sport’s talents.
We have recently finalised our study and hope to be able to announce some substantial changes regarding the remuneration on the Professional Circuit. The ITF has commited themselves to achieve something which is more than simple embellishment because it really acts upon the fundamental matter in an efficient way. Our goal is to make an announcement towards the end of March 2015.
We will make sure that your name will be in the list of those who will be informed of the matter at the appropriate time.
Many things to ponder
The ITF has confirmed that they have studied the case of the prize money on the Pro Circuit and are working alongside the governing boards of both the ATP World Tour (men) and the WTA (women). This, in itself, is a great positive.
Their will to “achieve something which is more than simple embellishment” is also a huge step in the right direction.
However, their thought that “a significant increase in prize money might result in less opportunities to compete, especially outside of Europe and North America” might be valid from a geographical and economical point of view, when we know that the economic conjuncture of some countries borders on extreme poverty, including a lot of inflation and high costs for the citizens.
However, this should not, in my opinion, stop the ITF from making significant changes to the prize money allotted to the Pro Circuit events. If a tennis federation is unable to host such a tournament and to give players their just due for playing the event (and $100 or less are not their rightful due), or to provide them with a venue that will not be a risk to the players’s health and well-being, with a minimum of comfort, then this federation should not, in any case, be allowed to host a Pro Circuit event and the money should be redistributed elsewhere.
Considering that the ITF does have sponsors, it should be up to them to help provide the Pro Circuit with the means to host tournaments which will, ultimately, be profitable to both the ITF and the players.
If this means that the ITF should reduce the number of Futures events, so be it. It might be, in the long run, a blessing for everyone involved, something from which the big winner will be professional tennis.