Tennis and ATP Decision Reversal on Sponsorships – What’s Next?

published: May, 26, 2021

by: TC Staff

Whatever sport you watch, there will be sponsorships, and advertising included. It’s so commonplace you might not even notice its presence, whether it’s on the advertising hoardings or even on clothing and apparel. 

Some sports are more cash-hungry than others, requiring a considerable investment for success. But the one thing they all have in common is needing sponsorship of some kind, which is essential for funding.

In 2018, the ATP Tour banned tournaments from having sponsorship deals with gambling firms due to concerns over irregularities. That rule has now been reversed, so what’s next for sponsorship in the sport?

2018 Ban

In 2018, concerns over match-fixing in the men’s game led to the ATP banning all sponsorship deals which involved either fantasy or sports wagering companies. The action was taken after consultation with the Tennis Integrity Unit, an agency now replaced by the International Tennis Integrity Unit. 

Many high-profile scandals were picked up by the media, with allegations of Italian and Russian multi-million pound wagering syndicates involved in match-fixing. 

In 2018 Karim Hossam was handed a lifetime ban, and Nicolas Kicker was given a three-year ban, both for alleged match-fixing.

This, plus patterns of irregular wagering at top tournaments such as Wimbledon, was enough to spur the ATP into action. Fantasy sports and wagering firms were blocked from being involved in the sport as part of any sponsorship deal. 

Reversal of Ruling

The International Tennis Integrity Unit has confirmed that it has sufficient evidence to be satisfied there is no widespread corruption in the professional game. As such, the ATP have cautiously lifted their ban on wagering sponsorship, but some restrictions remain in place. 

The new rules allow fantasy and wagering sponsorship at 250 and 500 events, but the top tier Masters 1000 events will still not allow wagering sponsorship, just fantasy sports. In addition, any on-court signage or advertising must be placed at a reasonable distance from both the players and the umpire. 

New Ventures?

The softening of the ban offers new opportunities for tennis to acquire sponsorship deals, bringing more money back into the sport. 

Wagering firms have been keen to participate in sponsorship deals as it’s an excellent way to get their name known with an audience that meets their target demographic. PartyCasino has tied up one of the recent high-profile deals, agreeing to a sponsorship contract with top F1 team McLaren. 

And this is just the first of many future deals, as Wagering firms look to expand beyond traditional sports such as football. 

This could prove to be beneficial for tennis as it’s rumoured that there’s already a seven-figure deal on the table for a sponsorship deal that includes several 250 and 500 events. 

These deals could become more commonplace in the future, especially if Andrea Gaudenzi, the head of the ATP, is right with his predictions. Gaudenzi believes that the future of sport is digital, with viewers looking for consistent online consumption. He has led calls for greater cohesion in the broadcasting of tennis, including the establishment of a “global house of tennis” where fans can more easily find highlights, live-action and news about the sport. 

Should his vision become a reality, tennis could enjoy a rapid expansion, bringing in new fans from all over the world. This would undoubtedly make sponsors sit up and pay even more interest, with lucrative sponsorship offers inevitably rolling in from all quarters – especially from the digital-savvy wagering and gambling firms. 

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TC Staff

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