First Hamburg, now Monte Carlo.....
Press Release Source: Monte Carlo Masters Series
ATP Violates Antitrust Laws, Lawsuit Alleges
Monday April 9, 9:52 am ET
Monte Carlo Masters tournament rejects downgrading by the ATP
MONTE CARLO, Monaco, April 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Monte Carlo Masters Series has today filed an antitrust lawsuit against the ATP Tour, Inc. (ATP), the governing body of the men's professional tennis circuit. The suit, filed in the US federal district court in Delaware, argues that the plan being put forward by ATP's management to downgrade the status of Monte Carlo's Tournament is a clear violation of US antitrust laws and would irreparably damage the status of a thriving world-class and historically significant tennis tournament.
This suit, together with another recently filed by the Hamburg Masters Series for similar reasons, marks the latest in a series of vigorous objections to the so-called "Brave New World" restructuring plan, being pushed through by the ATP's Chairman, Etienne de Villiers, despite increasingly forceful objections from around the tennis world. The plan has outraged the world's top players who voiced their strong discontent to the ATP's management at the recent Miami Masters Tournament.
The lawsuit alleges that the ATP has conspired to restrain competition by downgrading the status of the Monte Carlo Tournament by slashing prize money and halving the ranking points available to players at the tournament. These steps, the lawsuit alleges, will:
-- Harm players' ability to compete in the tournaments of their choosing;
-- Harm consumers by reducing the number of prestigious top-tier
professional men's tennis tournaments;
-- Harm sponsors by decreasing the number of premium tournaments available
for sponsorship or broadcasting;
-- Harm organizers by limiting the number of high-profile tournaments in
their community or country.
The lawsuit was filed in Delaware as the corporate home of the ATP. Monte Carlo is seeking a permanent injunction and treble damages.
The Monte Carlo Tournament is among the most feted in tennis history, dating back to 1897. Legendary players including Bill Tilden, Roy Emerson, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have competed at Monte Carlo. Last year, more than 100,000 people attended the tournament and millions watched on television around the world. The tournament is one of the founding top nine events that made up the ATP tour when the tour was created in 1989 to represent the interests of men's professional tennis.
Both players and tournament organizers have complained that the current ATP management is not representing the best interests of tennis and has not given the players or tournaments a real say in the future of the ATP.
Madame de Massy, the President of the Tournament Committee stated: "We are asking the Court in the US to declare this plan illegal and are calling upon the ATP's management to listen to the message that the tennis world is sending: stop this plan before it causes real damage to tennis."
Monte Carlo Masters Series Tournament Director Zeljko Franulovic (himself a former winner of the Tournament) added: "Today marks a sad day for tennis when we are forced to take legal action against our own representative body to prevent it from destroying more than 100 years of tennis history in pursuit of its own financial goals -- and at the expense of fans, players, tournaments, and sponsors."
Notes to Editors:
In 2006 the Monte-Carlo tennis tournament attracted more than 100,000 spectators and millions of television viewers worldwide. It has played host to the world's greatest players over the decades, is described as the "jewel in the crown" of men's professional tennis and has received a number of awards from the ATP itself in recent years, including for "Sustained Excellence".
As the first top-tier tournament held in Europe each year, Monte-Carlo marks the traditional beginning of the spring clay-court season, which runs up to the French Open in Paris. Given Monaco's favorable weather, Monte-Carlo is one of the few European venues that can host a major clay-court tournament in mid-April. This year's Monte Carlo Masters Tournament runs from 14-22 April and again expects to play in front of a full house.
While the ATP's management has claimed that the restructured calendar is not yet officially finalized, and an "application process" is underway, the ATP's officers have also openly discussed in the press and elsewhere what the final outcome will be: the downgrading of both Monte Carlo and Hamburg.
The plan will violate US antitrust laws because it will eliminate the ability of Monte Carlo to compete to attract significant numbers of top-tier players, despite a century of success in doing so, by forcing (through a system of penalties) players to participate in other tournaments that they may not wish to play, making it very unlikely that they will also have the ability to play Monte Carlo. The plan will also slash prize money and halve the ranking points available at Monte Carlo's tournament.
Source: Monte Carlo Masters Series