The International Premier Tennis League is due to begin in December, 2014, a unique team competition to be played in six cities across Asia. The brainchild of Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi, many of the world’s top players have already signed up. Craig Tiley, the head of Tennis Australia and the tournament director at the Australian Open, tells The Tennis Space why Australia wants to own one of the franchises and why he believes the event will be a big success.
What do you think of the International Premier Tennis League?
Here’s something that has an opportunity to be innovative, cool and fun. It’s in Asia, that’s the emerging market. Tennis is not relevant enough in Asian market – it’s the biggest growth area. In tennis, we’ve got the mature nations, the grand slam nations and Spain, Spain does a fantastic job, but the emerging markets need work. There’s a vacuum, there’s a bit of time, there’s an emerging market, there’s a smart guy that’s willing to do the work, in Mahesh, he gets the four pillars – players, broadcast money, owners and logistics. The logistics – the stadiums and all that – were not quite ready for this year but it will be ready to go. It’ll happen.
So Australia is interested in buying one of the franchises?
Yes. Why are we interested and why are we pursuing it? Number one, because we think it’s innovative, cool and fun; number two, we think it’s good for tennis because it’s more content; three, it’s in Asia, which is on our doorstep, so we see it as a great emerging market for us, the Australian Open; four, it leads into the Australian Open, so let’s be part of everything that leads in, it’s good for the sport. We’ve had a very positive outlook on it. We looked at the costs of the franchise, all the details and it’s something that over the period of time (it will run), we can do. Mahesh knows we wouldn’t have a team in Australia, we’d have a team in Asia. Where exactly? That’s yet to be determined because you want to have a god stadium if you’re going to bring superstars to it.
You think it will be successful?
It’s a great night of tennis. People want to buy a ticket and be entertained. Here’s a great opportunity. The slams have good models, some of the Masters Series events and the Premium events on the women’s side do a great job in engaging the community and promoting. But I dream one day when I flick on a TV and watching a tennis match that the stands are full, so I know if they’re interested, I’m going to be interested. The other one is I want a consumer to say, I understand the story of tennis, where it starts and where it ends, and the other one is I want a consumer to say, I can’t wait to go and watch my country win the World Team Championships. Be it Davis Cup, Fed Cup, or whatever it’s called. Because I think the team element is one we under-use.
Players used to complain about playing too much – is there not a lot of hypocrisy in them now committing to play several matches in December?
The top players have to figure out how to manage that because it’s a lot of opportunity for them and they are also trying to grow their brands and commercialise their business. Players will figure it out. There’s never a short season. I don’t care what anyone says, if we made the Tour six months they would play 12. I do think it’s important for the sport to have a set time off but mandating it is difficult because I think if there is a commercial opportunity for a player during a set time off, you’re not going to stop him from playing.