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ITF defends Davis Cup reform plans ahead of key meeting

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has moved to reject criticism over an apparent lack of transparency over plans to overhaul the Davis Cup, adding that the new-look national team competition will provide long-term benefits to players, nations and sponsors.

In February, the ITF hailed a major $3bn (€2.56bn) partnership with investment group Kosmos that is set to introduce a new annual season-ending national team tournament and realise long-held plans to transform the Davis Cup.

The 25-year contract with Kosmos, a European-based holding company focused on building a global portfolio of media and sports assets, will seek to revamp the historic competition and generate substantial revenues for global tennis development.

The ITF Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed a proposal to create a major new annual season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals that will crown the Davis Cup champions. Featuring 18 nations and played over one week in a single location in November, the event will be staged by Kosmos in partnership with the ITF.

The plans are to be submitted to the ITF Annual General Meeting, to be held from August 13-16 in Orlando, Florida, with a two-thirds majority required for final approval. However, Tennis Australia, which is backing a rival competition launched by men’s body the ATP, said in a strongly worded letter seen by the Reuters news agency that it planned to “vote against the proposed amendments” because the reform process has been “far from transparent”.

Continental body Tennis Europe is also opposing the plans, but the ITF has pointed to strong backing from three of the four organisers of the sport’s grand slam events – the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC), French Tennis Federation (FFT) and United States Tennis Association (USTA).

“The ITF has travelled extensively to consult with all stakeholders in tennis and incorporated their feedback to develop a reform package for the Davis Cup which delivers long-term benefits for players, nations, fans, sponsors and broadcasters,” the ITF said in a statement reported by Reuters.

“Rigorous due-diligence has been undertaken by independent experts and the ITF has complete confidence in its partners, Kosmos, to deliver these transformational reforms.”

Tennis Europe claims there has been no clarity about how Kosmos, founded by Barcelona and Spain footballer Gerard Pique, plans to guarantee “$120m per year which would be the $3bn deal over 25 years”.

Meanwhile, Tennis Australia, the fourth grand slam organiser, is firmly committed to the ATP’s vision. The ATP last month announced the approval of the World Team Cup, set to take place at the start of the World Tour season from 2020, in partnership with Tennis Australia.

The World Team Cup return to the calendar for the first time since taking place in the German city of Dusseldorf from 1978 to 2012. The tournament will feature 24 teams and offer $15m (€12.8m) in player prize money in 2020, as well as ATP rankings points.

With the Laver Cup also on the tennis calendar, there have been concerns over a potential conflict between similar team events. The ITF added: “We are focused on more than protecting the interests of any one nation; we are focused on doing what is best for the whole of tennis.

“The reforms the ITF is proposing will secure the Davis Cup’s long-term status. The ITF…is the only body in tennis that invests in the future development of tennis and the Davis Cup is critical to generating the revenue to fund this development.”