At the ATP World Tour Finals, Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, announced the launch of two advisory boards composed of former players and senior business people from outside of the sport.
The Legends Advisory Board comprises John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt.
The Business Advisory Board comprises David Hill, (Senior Vice President, 21 Century Fox) Matthew Freud (Chairman of Freud Communications), Tommy Hilfiger (Principal Designer, Tommy Hilfiger) and Robert Senior (CEO Saatchi and Saatchi Fallon Group).
The appointment of the boards comes at the end of Kermode’s first year at the helm of the ATP, a year in which he says he has travelled extensively around the world at all the events, Masters 1000s, the 500s the 250s and spoken to a broad spread of people, from players to promoters and tournament directors.
“The sport is probably in the best place it has ever been,” observed Kermode. “That’s the great sort of starting point when I took over. Revenues are the best they’ve ever been for the ATP. Fans on site, record attendances. TV numbers are growing It’s in a very healthy position”.
However, Kermode is aware that the popularity of a sport does not always last, as was the case with his own childhood sporting passion, boxing. “No one has a right to stay in business,” he said, “and no sport has the right to remain at the top”.
Hence Kermode’s willingness to embrace the input of these two boards, with the aim of reviewing the business from top down and bottom up. “I don’t want to treat the issues in isolation,” he said. “I want to treat it as a whole”.
He is keen to get a broad perspective to understand what casual tennis fans or sports fans are interested in: “We’re not going to listen to the people in the sport, we’re going to go completely outside and get the people who don’t really buy into the sport, but look at it from a different perspective”.
On the day Kermode spoke at The O2, he had witnessed both boards in action. The Business Advisory Board has senior executives from the worlds of television, marketing, public relations and lifestyle fashion. “Ideas were flying around of what we can do, “ Kermode said, “It was just so inspirational”. “To be creative, to be innovative is something we want to do with a fresh look from people who aren’t bogged down in sort of tennis politics or anything like that and can see it in a fresh way.”
Kermode says the Legends Advisory Board also inspires him. “Sometimes when sportsmen finish, they go, they don’t care about the future of the game. These guys feel and know they have a responsibility to keep this game in the forefront of the public’s mind,” he said.
As part of the overall review of the sport, Kermode will look at the future home of the ATP World Tour Finals. London has the event up to and including 2015, with an option to host it again in 2016. The event, which is owned and run by the ATP, is according to Kermode, a $30 million business, and so it has an important place in the business of the ATP. A decision will be made in March/April 2015. “At the moment we are looking at every single option,” said Kermode.
The appointment of designer Tommy Hilfiger to help shape the vision of the sport is, according to fellow board member David Hill, “the secret weapon.” “He’s come from nothing and he’s created a vision that is viable in every country in the world. He’s passionate about the sport,” said Hill.
“I grew up watching John [McEnroe] and Boris [Becker,” said Hilfiger. “I’ve built a brand over 30 years… this is almost all I know….I really believe we should build a brand out of the ATP. I think the world has to get to know the players better. I think the players themselves are the stars, but they need to be exposed to their world as real stars,” he said.
The role of both boards is to assist the ATP leadership in an advisory capacity as Kermode develops a long-term plan for the ATP. Kermode will work closely with the ATP Board of Directors and ATP Senior Management.
“I believe these two boards will provide an invaluable resource for the ATP as we continue to assess which direction to take the sport in the coming years, Kermode said. I look forward to working with them as we evolve our long-term strategy aimed at harnessing the full potential of our sport”.