Business of Sport

Losing SA Open a huge loss

2011-07-19 10:45
John-Laffnie De Jager
Comment by John-Laffnie De Jager

The South African Tennis Open, held for the past three years at Montecasino, was the biggest tennis tournament in Africa. It attracted top international players and provided a necessary boost for the local tennis scene. 

Shortly after this year’s tournament it was announced that the ATP would not extend SATA’s three year lease. Contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with a lack of money. The ATP needed to shorten its season and the easiest way was to cut out tournaments not owned by individual entities.

The loss will be felt on all levels. Firstly, it provided South African players the opportunity to earn valuable points on their proverbial home ground. Apart from local star Kevin Anderson winning this year’s tournament, Izak van der Merwe went on to play in the semi-finals and Rik de Voest in the quarter-finals. Playing before your own supporters certainly helps.

For our junior players it provided the opportunity to see world-class players such as Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Gael Monfils and David Ferrer.  This is necessary not only for the obvious excitement surrounding these players, but also to bridge the gap between South Africa and a world that can sometimes seem far away. This made their dreams real.

Tennis, just as any other sport, needs money. Big sponsors follow the crowds, and the SA Open was broadcast to 75 different countries. A group of businessmen were ready to buy the SA Open - wanting to invest their money from grass-roots tennis to international tournaments. Smaller events can’t guarantee that exposure and will just not attract the necessary sponsors.

It is our hope that we can persuade the ATP to support a move to privatise the SA Open by guaranteeing a place for the event on the international calendar. This backing would reignite the independent financial interest we had already attracted to the event. However to make this happen and to successfully lobby the Tour we need the support of the South African government and our local sponsorship and broadcast market.

As it stands, we are now left with the Soweto Open, won this year by Izak van der Merwe, and the Davis Cup. South Africa is competing in the World Group play-offs in September.  We will play Croatia in South Africa. Hopefully this will ignite the necessary interest that sponsors need to invest in this wonderful game. Our tennis players are ready to once again compete at the highest level.

* The Business of Sport Column is produced in partnership with the Virgin Active Sport Industry Awards 2012. Now in their second year, the Awards have officially opened for entries; an annual opportunity for the rapidly evolving South African sports market to be recognised for its work. Click HERE for more details...or follow us on Twitter: @SportindustrySA

John-Laffnie De Jager is the South African Davis Cup Captain



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