ATP won’t ‘chase the cash’ to find future World Tour Finals host

Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) executive chairman and president Chris Kermode has said the organisation will not be “chasing the cash” in determining the future host for its World Tour Finals, adding that a market with a strong tennis fanbase will be sought.

The 2014 World Tour Finals drew to a downbeat close on Sunday as Roger Federer’s late withdrawal due to a back problem meant Novak Djokovic retained his title uncontested. London has played host to the finale of the men’s tennis season at the O2 Arena since 2009 and in November 2012 the ATP announced an extended deal to remain in the English capital through 2015.

Kermode (right of picture), who previously served as the event’s managing director, heads the board which will announce in the spring the host of the tournament from 2016. More than 1.5 million people have watched the Finals since they moved to the O2 Arena in 2009, but London is said to have competition from three other venues, and the BBC reports there is serious interest from North America and Abu Dhabi.

“I will not be chasing the cash to a venue that doesn't have fans in it,” Kermode told the UK public-service broadcaster. “This is the Super Bowl of the ATP World Tour: it's really become an event with huge meaning, and I wouldn't want to destroy that by taking it into a market where fans don't come.”

If London secures an extension to its hosting rights, Kermode said it will unlikely be for another five-year term, although he would want any new host city to sign up for at least that period of time. He added that despite calls for the Finals to move to a different market allowing a new fanbase to enjoy the event, there is merit to retaining a host for a significant period of time.

“There's a school of thought which says events get stronger if they have roots in the same venue, in the same time zone, in the same arena,” he said. “Like all the great sporting events, like golf's US Masters or Wimbledon, you know when it is and where it is, and I believe sometimes it can get stronger that way.”

The ATP on Friday announced the formation of two advisory boards to assist the organisation in its long-term planning for the development of men’s tennis. The Business Advisory Board is comprised of senior executives from television, marketing, public relations and lifestyle fashion, while the Legends Advisory Board features some of the sport’s former greats.

Kermode said he is “willing to look at absolutely anything” to make the sport appeal to as wide an audience as possible. He said the need for the five-minute pre-match knock-up, the number of tournaments on the calendar, the duration of matches and the issue of whether there is too much ‘downtime’ during matches will all be addressed.

With the ATP continuing its study into how many players should be able to earn a reasonable living on tour, Kermode said he believed it should stretch to those ranked “about 200 to 250”.