“Let them give us 50% of the profits.” Have Djokovic’s financial demands gone beyond all limits of decency?

Update Post: November 28, 2023 10:08 am

Novak Djokovic, a 24-time Grand Slam champion, said tennis players do not receive a fair share of the money the ATP makes in association with bookmakers.

“Due to the integrity of the sport, we are not allowed to have betting company patches on our clothing while playing on the court. We don’t get our fair share. When I say “fair distribution” I mean at least 50/50, allowing the tournaments to have major sponsors from the betting world. So everything is as simple as can be. For me the current situation is completely unacceptable. Personally, I most likely would not cooperate with bookmakers, but I know that about 95% of players would. I would support them. But this is not allowed. So give us 50% of the profits the tournament receives from the sponsorship agreements with the betting houses. It’s fair,” Djokovic said.

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Djokovic’s proposal is radical and revolutionary. The total income of the ATP for the year amounts to 250 million dollars, that of the WTA to 100 million dollars and an important part comes from income from betting houses. Novak wants the main men’s and women’s tennis organizations to give up almost half of their income. Officials will definitely not be happy with this option.

It is difficult to find a reason for tennis players to receive a significant share of the profits from the ATP’s cooperation with betting companies. First, currently a percentage of the organization’s sports betting revenue already goes to the players’ pension program. Most active tennis players will have to wait more than 10 years to see that money. However, the ATP offers them financial guarantees once their career is over and does not abandon them to their fate if, suddenly, things in someone’s life do not go well after putting on their racket.

Novak Djokovic actively defends the interests of his fellow tennis players

Photo: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Secondly, directly linking players to betting companies creates an ambiguous situation in which conversations about unethical practices and suspicions of match-fixing will inevitably begin to arise. Cooperation with these types of companies should be silent and discreet. The ATP enters into agreements with bookmakers under which some type of betting advertising appears during the broadcast of matches. Players receive salaries in the form of prize money, which grows every year. Everything is quite simple and fair.

It is important to note that tennis is not the most attractive sport for betting houses. According to a study by Sport Business Consulting published in December 2022, the total value of media rights for all sports competitions has reached $55 billion and is projected to reach $60 billion in 2024. Participation of tennis in this huge monetary cycle is only 1.5% or 825 million dollars. A big problem with this game is that the matches last indefinitely. Tennis players can spend less than an hour on the court if one opponent crushes the other. Or a veritable marathon of four or more hours can take place if the winner has to be determined through tiebreakers and a tenacious fight in almost every match. Furthermore, there is no clear start time for the matches. Initially, what is indicated constantly changes depending on the duration of the battle of those who entered the court first. Sometimes the weather interferes, due to rain, the confrontation is sometimes interrupted, postponed for several hours or postponed to the next day in the most unfavorable scenarios. Any clear planning in these conditions is difficult, unlike other types. Public sports channels can generally cancel or discontinue broadcasting tennis if it overlaps with any important football or basketball games.

In his statement, Djokovic is not primarily defending himself, but many much less famous players. Novak has no problems with money. He won $175.28 million in prize money, an all-time record in tennis history. Second-place Rafael Nadal trails by more than $40 million. Djokovic’s total net worth is currently approximately $240 million and is constantly growing due to endorsement deals with various brands.

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Novak noted that he would not cooperate with bookmakers or put their logos on his uniform, even if it were possible. For him, this is to some extent low and unacceptable. But Djokovic is confident that 95% of his colleagues would accept such a step without hesitation. Simply because they don’t have much money.

The recent words of the Indian Sumit Nagal caused a great resonance in the media. The number 159 in the ATP ranking said that he only has 900 euros ($959) in his bank account. India’s number one in 2023 won $89,577 in prize money, which he believes is not enough to live a normal life. Nagal does not see much point in continuing to attend Challenger series tournaments, and in Slams or Masters with large prize money it is difficult for him to qualify due to the insufficiently high level of tennis shown.

Sumit Nagal

Photo: Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

One could argue that Nagal gets what he deserves. He is not an elite player, so you should not dream of big income. On the other hand, the Indian is still among the 200 best representatives of his sport on the planet, but his annual salary is very modest and does not reach at least six figures in dollars. Although you will have to spend a lot of money on travel and pay for the services of your team. Nagal has no sponsors in India, tennis is not highly regarded in the country and is several times less popular than cricket.

Three years ago, Djokovic founded and led the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), dedicated to protecting the interests of all players. The second person after Novak in this organization is Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who immediately responded to Nagal’s resounding words.

“Tennis. A multi-billion dollar industry in which most actors cannot make a living. The third most popular sport, the second in number of bets,” Pospisil wrote on social networks.

Vasek Pospisil

Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Pospisil also boasted that the PTPA has pressured the ATP to implement a minimum salary policy in tennis starting in 2024. This is a program to support players ranked between 101 and 175 and between 176 and 250 in the ATP ranking. According to its conditions, the first category will receive guaranteed payments of $150,000 in addition to the prize money of the year, the second – $75,000. Sumit Nagal, 26, is on the list of players eligible for benefits. At least according to his current rating. He will be motivated to participate in the challenges so as not to be left out of the top 250.

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The existence of an independent players’ association led by an undisputed authority of Djokovic’s caliber is good for tennis. Novak really defends the interests of colleagues with low qualifications who receive little money. However, his financial requests to the ATP regarding the distribution of income from cooperation with bookmakers go beyond the limits of decency. Nobody will give 50% of the profits to the tennis players. Novak can be praised for his intentions to improve working conditions for himself and his colleagues, but even so, in this particular case, he should stop and evaluate the situation more seriously.

Although it cannot be ruled out that Djokovic’s objective was the very fact of discussing his idea in the public space. Novak is not a stupid person and he understands how effective trading technologies work. To begin with, you set not entirely realistic conditions in order to be able to make concessions in the future and achieve at least something. In this situation, any small part of the bookmaker’s payout is much less than 50%. Let’s see what Novak’s efforts ultimately lead to, but still, he definitely raised the initial bar of requirements.

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September 24, 2023 8:13 pm