A breakaway organisation for the men is being proposed

There’s a touch of Déjà vu in the latest political developments which are unfolding at Flushing Meadows this weekend as the male players show their dissatisfaction with their governing body. In many ways it follows a similar path to that played by their predecessors when the now legendary Flushing Meadows “Parking Lot Press Conference”, was held in 1988 by the ATP to take control of the circuit from the Pro Council who ran it at the time. It resulted in the ATP Tour which started in 1990,

It has become clear that, as a player council member within the current structure of the ATP, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on any major decisions made by our tour. Vasek Pospisil

Now we see that Novak Djokovic, the world No.1 and his main supporter, the Canadian Vasek Pospisil are promoting a new organisation to represent the players to be known as “Professional Tennis Players Association” (PTPA). Their goal would be “to provide players with a self-governance structure that is independent from the ATP and is directly responsive to player-members’ needs and concerns” but is in not aimed at replacing the ATP itself.

According to The New York Times, Pospisil, Djokovic, and John Isner have resigned from their roles as members of the Players Council in order to create this new players’ association to get more favourable working conditions.

The PTPA would look into ATP tournament rules and regulations, revenue sharing, disciplinary actions, pensions, travel, on-site food and amenities, insurance and medical care.

There was talk during the Australian Open of such a move with Djokovic circulating a letter to all players outlining a draft of the possibility.

Problems obviously existed but these seem to have now been resolved sufficiently for the action to proceed to the next level with the acceptance by players themselves physically signing up to the new organisation.

The letter circulated by email as seen by the New York Times, asks players to sign a letter backing the PTPA and declares “if a significant number of players support this initiative we will move forward” and complete bylaws as well as proposing a board of nine trustees to be elected annually.

This membership is being offered to the top 500 singles players as well as to the top 200 doubles specialists.
The trustees would appoint two co-presidents with two-year terms and not surprisingly, the first President is expected to be Novak Djokovic with Vasek Pospisil acting as Vice-President.

There would be a dues structure with players paying an amount based on their ranking — from a high in singles of $1,500 for those from 1-50 down to $75 for those in spots 401-500, and a high in doubles of $1,000 for those 1-30.

The total fees listed in the letter would bring in $317,500 each year.

IIn some ways the ATP hierarchy have brought this on themselves by lack of communication with players and not showing some sort of solidarity with them during the five-month shutdown which has been voiced by players like Gilles Simon and Reilly Opelka criticising them for their absence from New York, and their seeming refusal to cut back on their salaries while players themselves suffered from a lack of income.

ATP Chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi, in response to the development has warned the players that their actions could destroy the ATP itself and stated in a letter to them pointing out the what they could be losing.

“You have what other athletes in other sports would strive for — a seat at the boardroom table,” he wrote. “That is what players fought for in the creation of the ATP Tour. It makes no sense why you would be better served by shifting your role from the inside to the outside of the governance structure.”

He concluded by adding: “Our battle is not with each other. Now, more than ever, is the time for unity and collaboration.”

A present players are keeping their thoughts to themselves though Pospisil has confirmed his resignation from the Player Council.

“After two years on the ATP Player Council, I am resigning from my position as the player representative for the 51-100 ranking positions,” Pospisil tweeted.

“It has become clear that, as a player council member within the current structure of the ATP, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on any major decisions made by our tour.”

The move overlooks or ignores any moves behind the scenes of a possible merger between the ATP Tour and the WTA Tour, a move which has considerable support but whatever progress has been made on that front remains behind closed doors.

Whether that move has played a part in the founding of the PTPA as a protection of male interest in the sport, is a debating point with many players, especially down the rankings, not happy at the prospect of sharing the prize money fund with the women while ignoring all the other benefits which it would offer the sport overall.

This weekend should decide whether the PTPA becomes another organisation to muddy the running the sport, even if just confined to the men’s tour.

Milos Raonic has publicly voiced his support and says he will be signing up.

“Players have had plenty of time to think and reflect and take a look at certain parts which they may not be happy with and discuss,” the Canadian said after reaching today’s Western & Southern Open final.

“A lot of us were kept in the dark by our leadership for six months. We were disappointed with many things. I voiced my opinion on many things, such as … executives in other sports taking pay cuts to support us. As tennis players, we weren’t making a dime for months and months. … Lower guys weren’t making a dime, but our executives were staying home and didn’t feel it necessary to take any pay cuts. I pushed for that on every single phone call we had.”

This could well be another watershed in the history of the game and it’s a great shame that it doesn’t involve the women.

Vasek Pospisil has been unhappy with the ATP Tour for some time.

Jan Kok/Soccrates/Getty Images



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