Johannesburg - Kevin Anderson is not the only South African shooting the lights out in tennis – the federation itself, Tennis South Africa (TSA), which has traditionally been an embattled federation, has signed a whopping five sponsors since the year began.
TSA chief executive Richard Glover explains how.
What impact have Kevin Anderson’s exploits at the US Open had on Tennis SA?
No matter how good a job you do off the courts, sport is about on-field success. There’s no doubt that there’s a direct correlation between interest in a sport, participation in a sport and success on the field. Kevin’s success can potentially have a huge galvanising effect, especially for the so-called Cinderella sports, because the big three [rugby, soccer and cricket] dominate all of the airtime from a media perspective.
How is it going with persuading him to play Davis Cup tennis for SA?
He was in South Africa in December. I reached out to him and we met for lunch. I took him through some of our draft plans and he gave some input and feedback, particularly in terms of junior players because he seems to be really interested in them.
We had an open and honest conversation about that and we’ve continued to talk. So it’s very much a work in progress with Kevin. If we get promoted in the Davis Cup, we’re cautiously optimistic that he would make himself available, but for selected ties.
TSA has signed five sponsors in 2017 – how did that happen for a Cinderella sport in these difficult financial times?
The early success we’ve had in bringing in five sponsors this year alone has surprised a lot of people, and a few people have asked how we’ve managed it when there are a lot of federations struggling to attract sponsors outside of the big three.
The way we’ve managed to secure these sponsorships is not rocket science. What we’ve tried to do is focus very strongly on governance. I was pleasantly surprised when I joined Tennis SA at how strong the governance is.
The second thing is that we’ve got a very clear vision for where we want tennis to be over the next eight years, and we’ve got a plan in terms of how to get there.
The third and most important element of that is we’ve started to show progress on that plan as well. That’s what corporate South Africa wants to see – a vision, a plan and that plan being executed.
Who are these sponsors?
The first sponsor we’ve brought in is KIA Motors, which is the team sponsor of the Davis Cup team; we’ve brought in an IT company from Pretoria called Axnosis, they work on the business-to-business side of things in terms of IT systems for logistics and mining; we’ve brought in Lotto Sport Italia for our national teams; we’ve brought in Vodacom from a content and streaming perspective; and the most recent and big one is Growthpoint Properties, which is a major South African and international property company.
We’ve brought them in as a headline sponsor, which means they are investing in three aspects of tennis: our junior tennis structures, tennis development and club tennis.
How are TSA’s finances?
When I started at Tennis SA, the finances of the federation were in a perilous state, so my number one focus was to make sure we could steady the ship financially, and bring in more money to create a surplus so we could invest in our key programmes.
Look, there’s never going to be enough money in South African sport, but, with this sponsorship from Growthpoint, we’ve now got some money we’d like to invest.
But you have to be smart about how you invest.
So we’ve been specific in terms of where we want to invest.
Transformation and development is a key area, as are our junior structures, where we want to create a platform and an opportunity for our most talented players for that difficult transition from junior players to professional players.
How far is South Africa from hosting another SA Open?
A lot of people have said to me that bringing back the SA Open should be our top priority.
But there are a couple of things people need to consider. One is economics: to bring an ATP 250 event to South Africa, you’ve got to buy a licence – if a licence is available – and that costs millions.
To run an ATP 250 event will probably cost R40 million. If you want to run a really high-profile ATP event, you’re probably looking at up to R80 million.
But I’m not using it as an excuse – I’m just saying it’s going to take some time to create a business model that gets us into a position to host an event like that.