About FTPs and ATPs… Who wants it more?
"It’s impossible to play from 1st of January and finish 5th of December…It’s (now) impossible to be playing like I did the last five years, playing a lot of matches and being all the time 100% (fit) without problems…Everybody is working hard to try to change that (the tour programme). I know it’s difficult because it’s a lot of interests there, a lot of tournaments there… It’s difficult to say when you stop or when you start (the season). I don’t know the solution, but that must be changed - and soon," — Rafael Nadal, twice an injury victim in 2009, echoing Andy Roddick’s plea for time off from the ATP men’s professional tennis tour.
- ‘Roddick, Nadal fear showdown over ATP workload’, Asia-Pacific News, Oct. 12, 2009
The top brass of the powerful International Cricket Council (ICC) recently held a special meeting to decide on the forthcoming international cricket itinerary which they call the ‘Future Tours Programme’ (FTP).
There, the ICC board approved in principle the post-2012 FTP, proposed by its CEO’s Committee at the meeting held on Oct. 7 in Johannesburg. Now the ICC CEO, Haroon Lorgat is to carry out a commercial evaluation of the proposed FTP and draft a revision to the FTP regulation, it was reported.
Only just days apart, from the Champions Trophy in South Africa to the Champions League in India, cricket, like professional tennis, is now played all the time, round the year and we, the fans, tend to become more and more selective in watching it. The fans don’t really watch the entire game nowadays (if it is in fact not a Twenty20); they simply want to get to know the scores now and then and just forget about it. The situation is quite in contrast to the bond that existed between the game and its fans, about two, three decades ago.
Who wants more?
Who wants more and more cricket to be played round the year? Who made, in hindsight, the professional men’s and women’s tennis tour –the ‘ATP World Tour’ and ‘WTA’ — so irritatingly crowded, making its participants a bored, injured and wasted lot, also making some of them complain like top seeds Nadal and Roddick, the current world number 2 and 6?
Commercial establishment and the media: this is the obvious answer to the above question.
The ‘ATP World Tour’ in a 12-month period holds about 66 tournaments, each carrying over 250 ranking points, meaning those events are of utmost significance to the international tennis pros. Other than the Ashes and other international Test and ODI matches, now there are more and more 50-over competitions and to add to the woes, they have found out from recent times a ‘better’ limited-over version, the Twenty20, which is likely to fill the rest of the ‘blank slots’ in the present annual programme. Hence, the emergence of the ICLs, IPLs and the Champions Leagues.
Profit-oriented commercialism calling the shots will create a sorry state in the future. Some of the repercussions are already felt in tennis, nearly 37 years after the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
Players complaining about injuries and calling for a more relaxed annual programme, a ever-diminishing interest about the more prestigious team events like the Davis Cup (not individual tournaments like the Grand Slams), and the ever-increasing exposure for doping and match-fixing issues, these are the repercussions of giving way to commercialism without farsightedness, or the results of the major international governing bodies, like the ICC in cricket and ITF in tennis, giving way to the pressures of commercially-oriented demands of the day.
When you look at the broader picture, the players are the worst victims in such a scenario. They are looked at by these commercial forces as mere (lifeless) machines, who can only generate money in their favour. The day the players are incapacitated, they will be thrown out like lifeless waste. Until then, those players may be called heroes, champions, blasters and wizards. The situation compels the player to reap the biggest possible harvest while the sun shines. This is a tragedy.
Commercialism has no moral values, other being driven by the intention of increasing profits. In such a situation, both players and fans become victims.
The ICC has a strong role to play here. Haroon Lorgat has to make a ‘commercial evaluation’ of its post-2012 FTP, but at the same time, he must ensure that the game does not lose its credibility and its much cherished spirit in the long run, because the ICC’s primary role is to protect the sport for the future, not to make it a business.