1. No money this year, happy if we break even in third year: Vijay Amritraj, Promoter, Champions Tennis League

No money this year, happy if we break even in third year: Vijay Amritraj, Promoter, Champions Tennis League

The Champions Tennis League (CTL) is India’s first international tennis league...

By: | Published: October 29, 2014 1:05 AM

The Champions Tennis League (CTL) is India’s first international tennis league, launched by promoter Vijay Amritraj with support from the All Indian Tennis Association (AITA), with Indian juniors playing alongside the top 25 players of the world. Amritraj talks to FE’s Anand J about his expectations from the league in its first year — set to begin on November 15 — and competition from other leagues. He also talks about economics and the growth of sports in India. Excerpts:
Why do we need a tennis league in India? And there is Mahesh Bhupathi-promoted International Premier Tennis League? Why do you think such leagues are important for sports?
CTL is an Indian league, the other one is not. All sports have a league now. Chess, Kabaddi and wrestling are coming up. This shows the growth of sports in India. There will be a shake-out over a period of time and a few will not survive. When my brother and I played tennis in 70s and 80s, we were the only professionals in any sport in the country. Though it is still slow, parents are now supportive of their children now.  Money in India can sustain an ATP 1000 tournament today.
Bhupathi’s International Premier Tennis League has bigger names…
There are two ways of looking at it. You can get a big name and pay $10 while the pool of revenue available is probably only $2. If you can get a guy for $1 and the pool of revenue is $2, you can break even. The top eight players were always going to be expensive.
How do you see the corporate India’s support?
You always need more corporates coming into sports. Thirty years ago, it was zero. Corporates are now realising the importance of supporting sports; they are looking at ROI, the feedback and other benefits as a corporate sponsor. They can do more. The athletes can do more too. You need ten players in top 100. I don’t know how we do it. We don’t have anyone today.
Tennis has always been an individual sport. How will tennis enthusiasts accept such a league concept?
In the 70s, I played an event like this in the US which was extremely popular. The owners of the teams were the same guys who owned NBA teams. Big players played for the same city. Nobody is trying to change anything here. The ATP calendar is packed and there is no scope for a new tournament and the cost is prohibitive. This is a unique concept and we will see in 3-4 years what the ROI is.
What kind of sponsors are you looking at?
We need to see which brands we need to associate with for the niche market we are providing. Tennis is not like cricket or football. We are talking to a lot of sponsors that makes sense to us. We also have ongoing conversations with celebrities.
What are your expectations from CTL in its first year of  operations?
The expectation in the first year is that it turns out to be a good event.We have a centralised operation and it is not the responsibility of franchises. We have to do this in six cities in similar fashion. The Tennis Channel will carry this in US and that is a first for an Indian league. We are certainly not going to make money this year. I will be happy if we break even in the year three.
Can you quantify the investments involved?
The team owners know what they are putting in. What they recover is from sponsorships, hospitality and ticket sales. They are pleased with the operations and since there is no auction involved and numbers don’t go crazy. The league pays the players and the teams got the players by way of lots. The teams pay us an annual fee. All players are in the top 25 bracket and all teams are fairly even.

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