ATP Tennis Ready to Take a Gamble on Beer, Liquor, Betting Sponsors
Posted on March 17, 2006
By Richard Vach, Tennis-X.com
The last time the ATP did an on-line poll with fans, asking questions such as 'Would you like to see the top singles players playing more doubles?' they twisted the results around to launch an all-out attack on the doubles-only players on the men's tour, an embarrassing ordeal that ended with players bringing a lawsuit against their "player union."
Now the ATP has launched a "Be Heard" fan questionnaire on it's website in an apparent attempt to gather data supporting their use of beer, liquor and gambling sponsors.
Can vices such as on-line betting, drinking and the ATP co-exist when it comes to sponsorships?
The ATP calendar currently features a couple beer sponsors with the Heineken Open in Auckland, The Stella Artois Championships in London, and a pharmaceuticals sponsor with The Dime-Bag Invitational in Amsterdam. Actually I made that last one up, sorry. With a new player seemingly testing positive each month, you'd think the Nandro Open is not far behind.
Questions in the current ATP survey began with the general "Which of the following are appropriate for ATP to enter into sponsorship agreements with? Please mark all that apply: Beer brands, Reputable betting agencies, Liquor brands, None of these are appropriate."
Regarding bringing wagering website sponsorships into the ATP mix:
"In your opinion how appropriate would it be for the ATP to enter sponsorship agreements with reputable betting agencies? Highly appropriate, Appropriate, Neither appropriate nor inappropriate, Somewhat inappropriate, Highly inappropriate."
The hard liquor:
"In your opinion how appropriate would it be for the ATP to enter sponsorship agreements with a liquor brand? Highly appropriate, Appropriate, Neither appropriate nor inappropriate, Somewhat inappropriate, Highly inappropriate."
Now that you ask me, ATP, depends on which, I guess. Not too big on coconut rums, perhaps a nice gin.
And bringing in more beer sponsors:
"In your opinion how appropriate would it be for the ATP to enter sponsorship agreements with a beer brand? Highly appropriate, Appropriate, Neither appropriate nor inappropriate, Somewhat inappropriate, Highly inappropriate."
What happened to including the "reputable" condition in the beer question, as with the betting question? When Miller Lite sponsored the Newport event, I found that "Highly Inappropriate," as Miller tastes like watered-down horse piss.
Last year the ATP caused a furor when it allowed the Kitzbuhel event to slap Betandwin.com all over the tournament site as their presenting sponsor. This occurred just as numerous rumors surfaces of players being involved in betting scandals, then American pro Justin Gimelstob came out and said player betting was truly a problem.
Kitzbuhel and Betandwin.com execs extolled the virtues of fans being allowed to bet live on matches during the event using their cell phones.
"Allowing a bookmaker to be the sponsor of an ATP event is such a stupendously stupid move that somebody ought to lose his job over it," said tennis writer Peter Bodo last year. "What were they thinking? It isn't like gambling has only become an issue in recent months or weeks, either. Allowing a bookmaker to be an ATP tournament sponsor is like baseball's New York Yankees giving the naming rights to their stadium to (the steroid-producing company) BALCO."
Also included in the survey are questions such as "Some ATP tournaments have 2-out-of-3 sets final while others feature 3-out-of-5 sets final. Which do you prefer?", and some content-related queries regarding the ATP website.
Judging by the ATP's twisting of their doubles data (which they refused to release to journalists) last year, even a 100 percent fan response of "neither appropriate nor inappropriate" would see ATP press releases hailing beer, liquor and gambling sponsors.
Too bad the ATP isn't a transparent organization in more (any?) aspects. It would be interesting to see the fan response as the ATP attempts to pry open the gates for what would be a flood (especially in the on-line gambling arena) of vice-sponsorship dollars to professional tennis.
Richard Vach is a senior writer for Tennis-X.com and can currently be seen on The Tennis Channel's "Tennis Insiders: Super Insiders" episodes.