Gary Horvath is a USPTA master pro, founder and past president of the USA Professional Platform Tennis Association, charter member of PPTR, a certified coach with USA Volleyball and a long-standing member of the Wilson Advisory Staff. 

Tennis Club Business
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His experience as a tennis pro has covered the entire spectrum from grassroots to college tennis. In addition, Gary Horvath has conducted extensive business and economic research that has largely supported the state of Colorado's economic development efforts.

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THE SPORTS WORLD IS MOVING FORWARD. IS TENNIS ON THE BUS?

Seems like tennis didn't quite make it - yet.

 

By Gary Horvath

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Back in the day, the business of sports was less complicated. Sports were a form of entertainment, but the game was the main attraction.

Are the Big Boys and Girls in the Team Sports Playing with Monopoly Money?

Today, the focus on sports includes revenue, ROI, television rights, viewership, betting, sponsorship, social agendas, politics, partnerships, multi-year contracts, cryptocurrency, and other distractions.

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The following examples tell a story about the sports world, sans tennis.

  • Front Office Sports (FOS) reported that 2021 revenue for the NFL was $11 billion, and the NBA reached $10 billion. According to the State Gaming Commissions, annual commercial gaming reached a new record of $53.03 billion last year, a 21.5% increase from the previous high in 2019.

  • The revenue for the Green Bay Packers for the fiscal year 2021-22 was $579 million (FOS).

  • Forbes unveiled its list of the most valuable NFL teams in 2022 — and the Dallas Cowboys lead the group at a world-record $8 billion. The 32 teams in the NFL are now worth an average of $4.47 billion — a 28% increase year-over-year.

  • Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, has a 10-year, $702 million contract.

  • A consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, and Sparks co-owner Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital purchased the Chelsea F.C. for $5.3 billion in a deal that closed in May.

  • FIFA generated 2021 revenue of $766.5 million, and its total assets grew 21% in 2021 to $5.5 billion.

  • Lionel Messi (Argentina football) has a four-year $826 million contract.

  • Notre Dame football may receive $75 million annually in television rights if they do not align with a particular conference.

  • College athletes earned about $917 million in NIL payments for the FYE June 2021 (Opendorse).

  • The estimated revenue of the Boston Celtics was $304 million in 2021.

  • Trading cards continue to be a hot commodity after the category saw $2 billion in transactions in the first half of 2021, which was equal to the total value of transactions in 2020.

  • The PGA Tour is in a fight with LIV Golf. Tiger Woods and Rory McElroy are introducing technology and new ideas as a way for the PGA to remain relevant. Ideas include stadium golf, one-day competitions, and revised financial arrangements (FOS).

  • Andretti Global, the parent company of Andretti Autosport, plans to build a new $200 million global racing headquarters in Fishers, Indiana. It will hire 500 people in the local area.

  • This list could go on ad infinitum.

Takeaway - team sports generate excessive revenue and media coverage.

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Media Coverage – Where is Tennis?

In July, Sports Media Watch published a list of the 50 most-watched sporting events during the first half of 2022.

 

Super Bowl 56 was ranked #1. There were 99.18 viewers, and it had a rating of 36.9. Tennis was not listed in the top 50 events.

 

The Wimbledon final (Djokovic vs. Kyrgios) was 45th on the honorable mention list. It had a rating of 1.3 and 2.24 million viewers. It was even lower than the NFL Pro Bowl game.

Takeaway - media coverage and participation are interrelated.

Revenue and Earnings for Tennis

Back in the day, the total prize money for the 1972 Wimbledon tournament was £50,330. The men's singles champion earned £5,000, while the women's singles champion earned £2,400. In 2022, the total prize money for Wimbledon was £40,350,000, and the singles winners each took home a trophy and £2 million. (In 2022, 1.0 pound is equal to 1.2 dollars.)

 

The career of Serena Williams is drawing to a close. Yahoo Sports reported that she earned $94.6 million in prize money during her career, which began in 1995. On average, that is about $3.6 million per year.

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Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Sister Venus ranked second with $42.3 million in career earnings. Off the court, Serena has made more than $350 million in endorsements or about $450 million in total career earnings. Maria Sharapova is a distant second with $315 million in career earnings.

Takeaway - tennis revenue and exposure are less than team sports.

The Tennis Associations

For many years, the USTA has served as the national governing body for tennis and generated revenue from the U.S. Open Championships. In 2021, U.S. Open revenue was about $477 million.

 

The combined budget of the three primary tennis teaching organizations (USPTA, PTR, and ITA) is about $12 million, with the USPTA budget estimated to be about 42% of the total.

Takeaway - the $477 million for US Open revenue (USTA) and $12 million (budgets) for the teaching associations is less than the revenue for most other sports.

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Tennis Must be Aboard the Bus

On August 9, 2022, FOS reported that Life Time Fitness is committed to being the largest indoor pickleball provider in North America. Life Time plans to have 600 pickleball courts by 2023 — more than doubling the current 250. CEO Bahram Akradi told Fortune magazine that pickleball will be the largest participatory sport in the U.S. at some point. The organization also plans to invest in other unspecified areas. The projected revenue for Life Time Fitness is $1.8 billion.

 

Hats off to Akradi for his commitment to sports, Life Time Fitness, and for putting his company in a position to drive the industry. The tennis industry will benefit when Life Time Fitness grows. In the world of monopoly money, the tennis industry needs other tennis businesses (of all sizes) to provide strong leadership and investment in the industry.

The trade associations must adapt to changing times and take on economic development responsibilities. They must provide support that advances the industry by bringing new ideas, investment, and exposure to the sport. In addition, the teaching organizations must clear the clutter from their agendas and develop first class competencies in workforce development and education.

 

To the many great people in the industry - Wake up! Use your eyes, ears, and talents to work with industry leaders who will bring about change and make decisions that will advance the industry to a different level. To do this it will be necessary to identify and educate first-class teaching professionals and leaders of the tennis industry who will find new ways to engage tennis players in the sport.

 

The sports world is moving ahead quickly. The tennis industry must get off the fast track to irrelevance and board the bus.

 

All aboard!

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