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Tennis needs a commissioner: Agassi

November 11, 2003 10:47 IST
A tough, no nonsense commissioner could provide the answer to tennis's problems, says Andre Agassi.

"The game could stand a commissioner, there's no question about that," said Agassi, who will meet Swiss Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in his opening match at the season-ending ATP Masters Cup on Monday.

"You need someone who can ... rise above all the petty indifferences and agendas and issues.

"If I could change tennis in one go it would be organising all the bodies.

"It's absurd to have so many bodies working separately in some cases against each other for sponsorship dollars, air time and branding."

Having a league commissioner is a formula that has worked for North America's major sports leagues with Bud Selig heading Major League baseball, David Stern in charge of the NBA, Paul Tagliabue the NFL and Gary Bettman the NHL.

Under their guidance those sports have prospered, developing marketing policies and negotiating television rights and labour agreements.

In stark contrast tennis has become an increasingly fragmented sport of individual fiefdoms looking out for their own competing interests.

With no co-coordinated

game plan, tennis's popularity, sponsorship, ratings and prestige have declined steadily over several years with the various factions all blaming each other.

The ATP men's tour, WTA women's tour, International Tennis Federation, IMTA (International Men's Tennis Association) a recently formed players union and individual tournament organisers have found little common ground.

It is a problem tennis officials and players have been aware of for some time but have yet to produce a solution.

With his playing days drawing to a close, Agassi gave no hint that the commissioner's job was one he would like.

But the eight-times Grand Slam winner made it clear that the number one challenge facing tennis was finding someone to unite the sport.

"The sport of tennis is an incredible sport that if everybody would put aside their own agendas and come together and sold the sport as an entire package world-wide, the amount of growth would be incredible.

"You have to get everyone in same room, get the egos and agendas out the door. It's going to take some tough decision making and it starts there."

Steve Keating
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