By Ros Satar
- Player Relief Program announced by tours and slams
- Roger Federer floats the idea of the men’s and women’s tours to join forces – reaction
LONDON, UK – Tennis governing bodies unite to provide relief for players who have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, with Roger Federer suggesting the ATP & WTA might combine forces in the future.
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Player Relief Fund
When the organisers of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells took the decision to cancel the entire tournament on the back of a single confirmed case of the coronavirus, few would have predicted the domino-fall of not just tennis tournaments, but sports events world-wide, but the effect on players especially those lower down in the ranks, has long been a concern.
In a press release, from the WTA, ATP, ITF and the four Slams, it was announced that the organising bodies will unite to create a COVID-19 Player Relief Program.
The statement released on Tuesday reads:
“With so much uncertainty around when it will be safe to restart the professional tennis tours, the international governing bodies of world tennis can confirm they are in discussions to create a Player Relief Program to provide much needed assistance to the players who are particularly affected during this time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
These discussions have been progressing well and details are being finalised with an announcement expected in the near future. Already agreed is that the WTA and ATP will administer the Player Relief Program and all seven stakeholders will make a significant contribution.
The health and safety of everyone involved in tennis is the absolute priority for all the governing bodies, and the tennis community has been unwavering in playing its part in limiting the spread of the infection.
This is particularly true of our players, with so many engaging their fans through messages of hope while reiterating the importance of staying safe at home, as well as demonstrating creative ways to stay fit and practice our sport to be ready for when the time comes that play can begin again.
We know that for our players, as well as for so many people worldwide, there is the need for financial support for those who need it most and we look forward to finalising and sharing the further details of a plan in due course.”
The proposal is to help those players who lack support from their federation or sponsors, with a scale of contribution from the highest ranked players to help those ranked between 250-700.
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Federer wonders if it is time for the tours to merge
Federer mused on Twitter about whether it is time for the sport to unite on a more permanent basis following the announcement about relief.
Just wondering…..am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men’s and women’s tennis to be united and come together as one?
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 22, 2020
I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the 2 governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours….
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 22, 2020
He has received support already from around the tours
You are not the only one 😊
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) April 22, 2020
There are several elements that would need to be considered. For many male players, equal prize money might still be a hurdle to overcome, and perhaps the rationale for the Original 9 to break away to form the Women’s Tennis Association as it is now needs to be at the forefront of any decision.
I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis.
The WTA on its own was always Plan B.
I’m glad we are on the same page.
Let’s make it happen. #OneVoice
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) April 22, 2020
However, it cannot be ignored that if Federer can lend his support to the groups coming together to be a single governing body, then we could see a changing face of tennis.
Currently the tours are suspended until 13 July, with the WTA edition of the Rogers Cup in Montreal (scheduled from 7-16 August) having been cancelled after Quebec’s government announced there would be no sporting events through to 31 August.
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