International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty has unveiled reform plans for the Davis and Fed Cup that would include the introduction of a bidding process to host the final of the showpiece men’s and women’s national team competitions at neutral venues.
The ITF is examining the hosting model in place for football’s Uefa Champions League final and the Super Bowl, the flagship game of the NFL American football league. These events typically award hosting rights three to five years ahead of the game, while the Davis and Fed Cups have utilised a strategy through which one of the finalists, based on the draw, decides on the venue.
Croatia is currently seeking a suitable location to host Argentina in the Davis Cup final in November. Haggerty told the Reuters news agency he hopes to have the new hosting system in place by 2018, with winning bidders likely to gain multi-year deals. The bidding process for national associations and cities interested in hosting the finals will begin in December with the decision on successful bids anticipated to be made in the summer of 2017.
“The most likely scenario would be for two-to-three-year terms,” Haggerty said. “Right now we know who are in the finals but we don't know where it is going to be. It is (currently) really hard to plan and get viewership and fans excited. If you have a fixed site, people can begin to plan and look ahead. Last year we had a fantastic final in Ghent. But the reality is, Britain could have sold out the (13,000-capacity) stadium. Belgium could have sold it out, too.”
The proposed Davis and Fed Cup changes must be approved by the ITF's annual general meeting in August next year. The ITF is also considering whether to reduce the finals from three to two days and utilising a best-of-three sets format for the Davis Cup rather than the current best-of-five. The Fed Cup world group could also double in size to 16 teams to match the men’s competition, while a ‘Final Four’ event could be introduced.
“We are going to spend the next nine months working with players, with our nations, talking about other possibilities, such as formats,” Haggerty said. “Should it be in Davis Cup two out of three sets, or three out of five? It could be looking at a two-day format.”
He added: “Our mission is to make tennis broad and wide. We have 700,000 spectators that come to Davis and Fed Cup each year… about 3.6 billion people view it on TV, but it's got to be more than that. It's got to be bigger than that, and with a neutral final venue we can work with our broadcast partners and make it a much bigger show than just two nations that know they're playing each other. We can make this into a much more massive win for tennis.”