Tennis: the very financial reform of the ATP world circuit

He was indeed there, this Monday, June 20, for his first training balls on the English lawn. Rafael Nadal intends to play the Wimbledon tournament from June 27, which he has not won since 2010, and his painful left foot is asked to be silent. The Mallorcan is far from done with tennis. On the courts as well as outside, as he has just proved by playing the VRP of the “One Vision” plan of the ATP, the association which organizes the world circuit.

The reform presented last week by the boss of the instance, Andrea Gaudenzi, did not really make the headlines. Yet she wants to be ” revolutionary “. It must be said that the Italian has been fine-tuning it almost since his arrival at the helm of the ATP at the start of 2020. Two years of discussions turned upside down by the pandemic, but which finally lead to a strategy shaping the future of the circuit. And obviously, the priority is financial.

More profits for more players

Because the observation is bitter. According to the ATP, tennis can boast of one billion fans on the planet and thus claim fourth place in terms of popularity (after football, basketball and cricket). Except that the little yellow ball points far away in terms of the income generated by its show. Globally, it crunches only 1.3% of the 52 billion dollars in revenue from the media, when football devours 40.6%, and basketball 8.6%. In other words: the product is poorly displayed and poorly sold.

The ATP’s solution is therefore to ensure that the tournaments it organises, mainly the Masters 1000, are upgraded. To do this, they will be longer (12 days rather than 8) and will welcome more players. (96 rather than 56). The American tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami are already in this format. They will be joined by Madrid, Rome and Shanghai in 2023, by the Canadian Masters and Cincinnati in 2025. Only the Bercy and Monte Carlo tournaments remain concentrated over 8 days, their infrastructures not allowing an extension for the moment.

In addition to this growing system, there is a desire for transparency in tournament costs, allowing real revenue sharing with players. At the same time, the ATP promises a 35% increase in bonuses by 2025, and a 37% increase in bonuses distributed at the end of the year to 30 and no longer 12 players. All the measures must ultimately benefit more than 140 players, while less than a hundred really share the cake today. “As a result, they welcome the reform rather well, because more of them will be able to afford solid coaching allowing them to recover better, to better manage their season, underlines Lionel Maltese, lecturer at Aix-Marseille University and consultant for the Open 13 Provence, ATP 250 tournament. On the other hand, smaller tournaments will no doubt find it even more difficult than before to land big headliners. »

The utopia of unitary governance

The ATP certainly evokes a solidarity redistribution for the smallest tournaments through its subsidiary ATP Médias which must collect the new exploitation and broadcasting rights, but for the ATP 500 competitions (11 tournaments) and ATP 250 (40 tournaments), guaranteeing a solid board will be a headache, with players who are truly untouchable. “The black hole of the reform is that it does not offer flexibility on points in the ATP ranking either, continues Lionel Maltese. If we credited certain tournaments like Marseille or Metz with 300 points for example, instead of 250, the leeway to seduce players with something other than the financial aspect would be interesting. There should be more proportionality in the points rather than these rigid levels, 1,000, 500, 250.

The reform is not more talkative on other less striking and stumbling points. What about the physical and mental health of the players, yet more and more undermined? The debate on the duration of the matches, however still pregnant between the proponents of the end of the matches in five sets and the defenders of the tradition, is dodged. The ATP first formulates what to inflate its business, before a second phase of its plan which pursues the chimera of a unitary governance. Shared today between the ATP, the WTA in charge of the women’s circuit, the International Federation, and the four organizers of the Grand Slam, it is hue and dia, as shown by the debate on the participation of the Russian champions (read opposite). The collective strategy is still in limbo. “There is still a lot of work to do,” recognizes the ATP plan. Indeed.


Wimbledon, without Russians and without points

The English tournament remained firm on the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians from its garden. The ATP and the WTA have therefore decided that no points will be awarded during the fortnight. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has made the same arrangement for the junior and wheelchair events. Many players are annoyed by the measure, regretting coming to almost play “an exhibition”. The debate is decided differently by the US Open: the American Federation (USTA) organizer accepts Russians and Belarusians, who will line up under a neutral flag from August 29th.



Football: UEFA’s new financial fair play, a sham reform

Two giants from England, two greats from Spain: the four clubs qualified in the last four of the Champions League after the quarter-finals on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 April are regulars at continental feasts. No one is surprised to find Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Villarreal at the top. This last guest was certainly less expected, but the winner of the Europa League 2021 is anything but a newcomer to the European football scene, already a semi-finalist in 2006.

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It is not tomorrow the day before that surprise little thumbs will take their place at the banquet of the football ogres. The new rules of financial fair play that UEFA has just voted will certainly not upset the hierarchy in place.

On the contrary, since they will offer “more latitude for clubs”, recognized Aleksander Ceferin, the president of the European governing body. Understand: a little more flexibility in the management of their budget to cope with the consequences of the health crisis and more broadly to adapt to changes in “the football industry that changed”repeats the boss of UEFA.

Regulate excessive pay

Launched during the 2010-2011 season, first-generation financial fair play (FPF) aimed to limit club debt by establishing a simple principle: do not spend more than your income, with a tolerance of 30 million euros. euro deficit over three accounting years. Overall, the regulations have proven to be quite effective, avoiding huge imbalances, even if the clubs have sometimes applied themselves to finding workaround techniques. On the other hand, the FPF did not prevent a mad escalation of wages, and it is this excess that it wishes to regulate.

→ DEBATE. Does the financial imbalance between PSG and other clubs affect the “beauty of sport”?

Regarding debt, the new rules authorize an additional deficit for clubs (from 30 to 60 million euros), but force the worst off to repay 10% of their debt every year. On the payroll side, they set a limit on spending allocated to salaries, transfer compensation and agent commissions. This limitation will be progressive: equal to 90% of club income in 2023-2024, 80% thereafter, and 70% from the 2025-2026 season.

In the event of non-compliance, various sanctions are provided for depending on the overrun: a fine called “luxury tax”, adding to a fund then redistributed to the most virtuous clubs, deductions of points, the banning of certain newly recruited players, or even relegation from one competition to another (from the Champions League to the Europa League for example).

PSG very advantaged

The reference for this payroll control is the “salary cap” system, which exists in the American professional leagues. “Except that the UEFA-style salary cap has nothing to do withsays economist Luc Arrondel, professor at the Paris School of Economics and sports specialist. In the United States, the system concerns a closed league, like the NBA for example in basketball, a single manager who shares the payroll between the different franchise owners, an absolute and not a relative division of the payroll. The rules are more restrictive across the Atlantic, while those of UEFA are just akin to rules of good management. »

Will they be effective? In any case, they give air to certain clubs like PSG, whose payroll today is overflowing. The Parisian club has three years to get into the nails, the ideal time to calmly negotiate the Kylian Mbappé case and offer the striker a staggering jackpot before the more restrictive 70% rule applies.

“All the clubs which have large shareholders and significant equity such as PSG or Manchester City are clearly at an advantage compared to historic clubs with extremely indebtedness such as Barcelona or Juventus Turin”underlines the economist Jérémie Bastien, of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

The Super League still in the background

It is therefore difficult not to place this new FPF in the context of the great fight between UEFA and the promoters of the Super League, this project of a closed league competing with the Champions League, led by a few leaders of major clubs. The presidents of Barcelona, ​​Turin and Real Madrid have not completely given up, even if their project aroused a huge outcry in the spring of 2021. However, they are the most embarrassed by the new FPF, unlike a Nasser Al Khelaïfi, president of PSG very hostile to the Super League and precious ally of Aleksander Ceferin, the boss of UEFA.

→ REREAD. Super League: the craziest night in European football

“It is clear that PSG is in the odor of sanctity at UEFA, and that its requests undoubtedly benefit from a more attentive listening than those of the secessionists of the Super League.comments Luc Arrondel. However, the FPF does not only obey these political motivations, and in any case does not completely upset the situation: the system does not prevent inequalities from widening between clubs and the birth of a Super League in term seems inevitable to me. »

It’s always the same question that has been hovering over European football for ages. “This new regulation ultimately only concerns the big clubs, the only ones capable of generating large revenuesconcludes Jérémie Bastien. For forty years, nothing has stopped the excessive financialization of football, which goes hand in hand with a growing precariousness of the majority of clubs. If nothing is done to fight against it, if bankruptcies multiply, the big clubs will impose their Super League, the culmination of this process..



In Bordeaux, the recovery of the Girondins or the threat of a “financial earthquake”

Attention, monument of football in danger. To date, the Girondins de Bordeaux are administratively relegated to Ligue 2 because of finances in the red. Unless Gérard Lopez proves this Monday to the DNCG (national control and management department), the gendarme of French football, that he is able to absorb the club’s deficit, estimated between 55 and 80 million euros, condition of its maintenance in the elite.

→ CONTEXT. Football: King Street announces that he no longer wishes to “finance” the Girondins de Bordeaux

The Spanish-Luxembourgish businessman is the only takeover candidate selected by the current owner, King Street. After having financed in 2018 the buyout of the Girondins from M6 by the investment fund GACP, which became sole master on board in 2019, the American announced last April his withdrawal from the club, refusing to hand over to ensure the survival of the club.

A model that does not pack

Friday July 9, Gérard Lopez, former owner of LOSC (the Lille club), overcame a first test: the Bordeaux Métropole council validated its letter of guarantee according to which the Girondins, even in the event of default or demotion, would pay the approximately 5 million euros in annual rent paid to the community to be able to play at Matmut Atlantique, the large stadium belonging to Bordeaux Métropole.

The economic model advocated by Gérard Lopez – based on the sale of young players trained at the club or detected upstream, and indebtedness -, however, does not thrill many Bordeaux elected officials, noting that justice was interested in transfers made by the former president of Lille. “But there is no alternative”, believes Alain Anziani, president of Bordeaux Métropole: “Either I trust Mr. Lopez, or I press a little red button and there are no more Girondins; we would then lose 5 million revenue, and it would be a financial earthquake. “

Turn the page of “foot business”

The Matmut stadium, which can accommodate 44,000 spectators, was built for Euro 2016 in a public-private partnership by Vinci and Fayat, who operate it through their SBA consortium. But to finance it, the town hall of Bordeaux borrowed nearly 100 million euros. The debt was then transferred to the metropolis, and its repayment costs it 4 million per year.

A “Decisive argument” for Pierre Hurmic: “If Mr. Lopez is not chosen and the team ends up in D2 or D3, we no longer have a tenant for the Matmut and it is the taxpayer who will pay the rent for the too large stadium. “ The ecological mayor of Bordeaux, however, dreamed of turning the page on “football business”. Candidate for mayor, he also promised to sell this great stadium, against which he had protested when he was in the opposition. But no Gulf emir or Russian oligarch has come forward, and Gérard Lopez does not want to buy him back.

A sword of Damocles for public finances

The Matmut is a real sword of Damocles for public finances, especially if SBA files for bankruptcy. The stadium operator loses 2 to 3 million euros per year, for lack of revenue from events – few concerts have been held in 5 years – and “naming” – the “rental” of the name of the stadium. to Mamut brings in half as much as initially hoped.

SBA failing, Bordeaux Métropole would be obliged to resume the operation of the stadium under direct control without the annual fee of 4.6 million euros from SBA and with the resumption of staff … A time bomb which elected officials hope to avoid the explosion with an agreement between Vinci-Fayat and Gérard Lopez, who thinks they can generate more profits from the operation of the stadium.

The businessman would still have to pass a final obstacle next week: the validation of his project by the Bordeaux commercial court, which holds the fate of the Girondins in its hands: if he does not deem it viable. , he could pronounce the liquidation of the club, and the end of his professional team.



Olympic Games: the financial puzzle of Paris 2024

The first sketch of the Paris 2024 Olympics plan, which is to accommodate the 28 official sports plus four additional ones (surfing, breakdance, climbing, skateboarding), was released in 2018. Since then, the cards have been reshuffled before copying. final, expected on December 17, on the occasion of an announcement – in principle final – by the Organizing Council. “When a plan appears in the media, it is already out of date”, quips a person close to the file wishing to maintain cautious anonymity in this busy period.

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“Tahiti for surfing is not questioned and will not be, but for the rest, it is true that there will be some changes”, he continues. Which ? The thing will be discussed again, Wednesday, September 30, at the Paris 2024 Board of Directors, after a tense meeting, Friday 25, within the interministerial delegation responsible for the Olympic Games. This organization, which brings together all the stakeholders, has long been headed by Jean Castex, replaced by the former prefect of Paris, Michel Cadot.

Three main directions seem to emerge; they relate to installations planned in Seine-Saint-Denis. One: the provisional pool for swimming competitions will not be built in Saint-Denis, but will be moved to La Défense, where it will be installed inside the Nanterre Aréna. A much cheaper project since the stands and the roof are already there. Two: volleyball should never see the removable hall initially planned at Le Bourget. Three: the size of the media village, planned for Dugny, will be revised downwards.

In return, the department could host rugby sevens at the Stade de France (before the start of athletics competitions). He would also gain climbing, with a perennial wall instead of the temporary installation originally planned at Concorde.

Valérie Pécresse steps up to the plate

This hat game provoked angry reactions from most political leaders, with the notable exception of Anne Hidalgo, who wins. The president of the general council of Seine-Saint-Denis, Stéphane Troussel, cried wolf, as did the president of the Île-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, worried about the extension of metro line 16, not sure to be completed on time.

→ ANALYSIS. Paris 2024 at the heart of tensions between business and morality

“They want at all costs to avoid the budget overruns experienced in all previous editions of the Summer Games, explains Kevin Bernardi, researcher specializing in Olympism. But in addition, the public authorities demand savings because of the economic context. ” The Élysée went in this direction last July after a meeting between Emmanuel Macron, Tony Estanguet and IOC President Thomas Bach. Verdict: 400 million euros to be found, or about 10% of the budget for organizing competitions, which represents a total of 3.7 billion financed by the IOC and private resources (ticketing, sponsorship, TV rights).

Sponsors do not rush

“With 95% of the competitions organized in existing sites, we do not have a margin of maneuver at the level of 400 million on the athlete, we must therefore type elsewhere”, Tony Estanguet regularly emphasizes. Elsewhere ? It will be a less ambitious site for breakdancing, skateboarding and 3 x 3 basketball at the Concorde. But above all services that have been revised downwards in related areas: shuttles, the site of the medal podium, press facilities, etc.

→ READ. Paris 2024: the Française des Jeux becomes a sponsor of the Olympic Games

The list is long and will have to grow even longer if the 1.1 billion euros expected from sponsors struggle to enter the coffers, given the economic health of large companies capable of writing a big check. On this front, we are nevertheless expecting good news soon: the probable announcement of the arrival of Orange as a premium sponsor.

An announcement in the form of a breath of fresh air, in an apnea candidacy since September 2017 and the award of the Games in Paris. Clouds have gathered over the heads of the Organizing Committee officials. There was the rebellion around the attribution of surfing to Tahiti (preferred to the Basque coast), the veto of Anne Hidalgo on the arrival of Total as sponsor, the anger of hoteliers at the arrival of Airbnb and more recently, the postponement of the Tokyo Games causing the Japanese bill to increase. “All the Games have had setbacks, continues Kevin Bernardi, but those in Paris have the difficult task of being the first to balance their budget. “