Business of Sport
South Africa in WTA's plans
London - The WTA Tour has continued to reposition itself and become a truly global product with strength in booming markets.
The fast-changing economic map of the world has, by and large, been mirrored by sport.
Throughout Asia, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Turkey, economic and social change is driving, and may even be partly driven by, sport. And few sports appear as well-placed to grow and change along with the rising tide of economic development in new markets as women’s tennis.
“Our market growth relates to our current structure,” says Stacey Allaster, WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) Tour chairman and CEO.
“Our aim is to ensure we continue to have geographic surface flow.”
The sheer national diversity of players on the WTA Tour is reason to be cheerful about future prospects. After all, sport has always grown and developed around national heroes able to enthral, engage with and inspire new fans. And women’s tennis has them in abundance.
But Allaster knows that to build effectively on the diversity which has fallen into the palm of the Tour’s hand, it is essential to create a schedule that takes live events into exciting new areas. And in 2012 there will be new WTA Tour events in Denmark, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Dallas and Baku, Azerbaijan.
It’s a diverse schedule of course but one which reflects the economic and personality-driven imperatives. The fact that Denmark is home to the world’s number one player makes that country a must for a new event. The rationale for the other new venues may be somewhat more complex but the fact remains that this is a Tour which has its eyes wide open to the new world and which is determined to create traction everywhere and every way it can.
Looking even further ahead, a grass court tournament in Cairo is due to come on stream in 2013 - it would already be on the map were not for recent political turbulence in the country - in the gap between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, while the Brisbane tournament, which runs ahead of January’s Australian Open, has been upgraded to a premier event. This leaves the Tour still looking for an Asia-Pacific event which, in the words of Allaster, “is synergistic with our strategy.”
“We ask ourselves how we get to other parts of the world and the answer is through events,” she says. “South Africa would love to have an event and we are looking at creating a series of pilot events in the 2012 off-season. They will have prize money of $125,000 and we look on them as a means of building in an emerging market.”
In recent years the Asia-Pacific region has been at the top of the WTA Tour’s ‘to do’ list, with China a clearly-identified priority since 2008.
“It was a strategy that came to fruition with the opening of a Beijing office in May 2008 and the idea was to feed the market so that it was ready when a champion emerged,” explains Allaster.