World Tour Finals: ATP chief won't leave London to 'chase cash'

By Russell FullerBBC tennis correspondent
London's O2 Arena
The World Tour Finals have been held in London since 2009, when they were moved from Shanghai
ATP World Tour Finals, O2 Arena London
Coverage: Final on BBC Two (18:00-19:00 GMT) and BBC Three (19:00 GMT) & BBC website; live commentary on 5 live sports extra, live text commentary on BBC website

The man who brought the World Tour Finals to London says he will not "destroy" the event by taking it into "a market where fans don't come".

Chris Kermode was the event's managing director before taking over as the ATP's executive chairman last year.

The Briton heads the board which will announce in the spring the host of the season-ending tournament from 2016.

"I will not be chasing the cash to a venue that doesn't have fans in it," the 49-year-old told the BBC.

"This is the Super bowl of the ATP World Tour: it's really become an event with huge meaning, and I wouldn't want to destroy that by taking it into a market where fans don't come."

More than 1.5 million people have watched the Finals since they moved to the O2 Arena in 2009, but London has competition from three other venues, and the BBC understands there is serious interest from North America and Abu Dhabi.

Cities with both financial clout and a large and passionate fanbase remain most attractive to the ATP, as the Finals are a key source of revenue.

If London is chosen to extend its seven-year run, Kermode says it is unlikely to be for another five years, though he would want any new host city to sign up for at least that period of time.

Boris Becker, Carlos Moya, Mats Wilander and John McEnroe
Boris Becker, Carlos Moya, Mats Wilander and John McEnroe will be on an ATP advisory board

There are some on the ATP board who believe the Finals should travel to allow a new set of fans to watch the top eight players in the world, but Kermode does not believe the event should automatically move after a set number of years.

"There's a school of thought which says events get stronger if they have roots in the same venue, in the same time zone, in the same arena. Like all the great sporting events, like golf's US Masters or Wimbledon, you know when it is and where it is, and I believe sometimes it can get stronger that way."

On Friday, the ATP announced the appointment of two new advisory boards,external-link one consisting of Grand Slam champions such as John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Mats Wilander; the other of leading business personalities including fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.

Kermode said he is "willing to look at absolutely anything" to make the sport appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

He admits the five-minute pre-match knock-up is an area of concern for him, and says the two boards will also look at the number of tournaments on the schedule, the duration of matches and whether there is too much "downtime" during matches.

And, as the ATP continues its study into how many players should be able to earn a reasonable living on tour, Kermode said he believed it should stretch to those ranked "about 200 to 250".

That is certainly not the case at the moment, so once a 'reasonable living' has been defined, someone will need to foot the bill.

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