Javier Palenque

Global Business Development Consultant based in Miami

Javier is known for casting vision and expert strategy that transform traditional companies into industry leaders, boost staff morale, and drive profitable, sustainable, and scalable growth.

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Cancel the US Open and re-purpose the time NOW!

By Javier Palenque

 

 

“What? Are you insane the show must go on “ were the words of my NY friend when I suggested the USTA must cancel the show this fall, I said to him just hear me out, sit down, listen to my reasons and then tell me your opinion?

 

Let us look at the facts:

Scientific Reasons

  • We are at a minimum of 12-18 months away for a vaccine for the Corona Virus. The US Open is scheduled in the next 5 months. Do the math, not enough time.

  • The CDC recommendation is to keep the restrictions for the next 8 -12 weeks, this brings us to the end of April early May, this is with incomplete knowledge of the real situation until we have more tests available for the population.

  • It is fair to assume that we have probably 10X the number of infected people due to a lack of tests of much of the infected population.

  • On (3/20) the CDC reports 15,219 cases and 201 deaths. On (3/27) the report states 85,356 cases with 1,246 deaths  (7 days -5.6X more) if we consider that number to be 10X underreported we have probably 853,560 and should expect 8500 deaths. Of those, the state of NY has 50% of them. No one I know is going to NYC unless it is absolutely necessary much less near the end of August by when we will be starting to learn how bad this whole pandemic really was or still is.

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  • We will be in a better position of knowledge in August when the tournament starts.

  • The chaos created between now and August will be such that the marketplace will only have uncertainty and people will avoid travel.

  • If the recession continues, and it is expected to last for a while, disposable income for entertainment events with massive crowds in the epicenter of the virus in America will reach an all-time low, with no indication of change anytime soon.

  • Statistics tell us that the odds of going to a crowded event with over 10,000 people that you have a 50% chance of being next to an infected person, in a state that has half of the cases of the USA those numbers are higher. By August the number of cases in NYC will be much larger than 40,000 they will be close to 100,000 which means the odds are even higher than 50%. This is a terrible outlook for the US Open.

Economic Reasons

  1. Attendance to US open has been flat for a decade, so in a year like this one the expectation is that it will be below the average of around 705,000

  2. 20% of US Open attendees are from overseas, given the economic outlook, very few foreigners will be traveling to NYC.

  3. 25% of US open attendees come from out of state, also the economy will be so hard hit that having disposable income for the show becomes a non-priority.

  4. Let’s not forget the age distribution of the attendees of the event, according to USTA 35% are people over the age of 54, that leaves 65% under the age of 54. While I personally do not believe those numbers, I know this: young people do not play tennis, so the young people attending the event will choose to shy away from crowds and companies that have the best seats will have few people choose to go because of the reasons above described.

  5. The Tokyo Olympics scheduled just 3 weeks before the US Open have been postponed.

  6. Even ITF is supporting the postponement of the Olympics

  7. Let us see the realistic attendance forecast:

  8. The decline in attendance will be roughly around 30%- 45% of the average, which translates into roughly 250,000 people. So, we have an average of 705,000 per year less 250,000, we should expect around 450,000 at the event this year. Terrible numbers for an event where “to be seen” is the main draw. The whole prospect looks terrible.

Community Reasons

  • The way to beat the virus is through being community sensitive, having much solidarity with others, social distancing, respecting private space, accepting the ordered quarantine, all for the greater good, of those of us who are most at risk. The notion of a crowded event simply goes against what the country needs, feels and wants. Its a matter of recognizing where the country is and being selfish is exactly where we are not.

  • The USTA is a nonprofit corporation, the welfare of the community should come first, having fewer crowds is what the community calls in this moment of crisis.

  • Going to hotels, restaurants, bars, airlines, buses, subways, etc. it all sounds like a horror movie in this time of a pandemic without a vaccine and you think people will sign up for those events with a high risk of being exposed and travel to the city that has 50% of the people infected in the country? now imagine having to go to the bathroom and wash your hands often for 20,000 people? lines for the women's bathroom were long just for biological reasons, imagine for washing precautions?

  • Consider that there are about 500 players and coaches who travel all over the world and then consider the average daily people at the US Open of around 40,000? whom do we protect? this makes no sense to even consider.

  • Then consider the health care workers who will have just finished a treacherous 4 month period with deaths in that group and to have exposure to a 2 week period of about 500,000 people gathered. It simply makes no sense to anyone considering the community first.

  • Consider the fans, will they go to be exposed and return home to those who are not exposed and risk their jobs and school, It makes no sense at all to delay the obvious.

  • Governor Cuomo states that 40%-80% of New Yorkers will contract COVID19 in the coming months.

  • The event may be canceled by governor Cuomo even though the USTA may think the Open may take place, the control of the event is outside the USTA's hands, this is what happened in Miami, IMG kept it till the last minute, the mayor stepped in and canceled it. Also, the players may not be able to come to the event depending on what happens in their countries. Its just uncertainty all around.

 

After I go through this laundry list my friend’s mind opens and says:

Ok, those are all valid points, but then what do we do if there is no US Open? The USTA would have to fund the whole year the system of sections and employees with no income? they will never allow that? They are all about the entertainment show.

 

The Opportunity

Well, any crisis creates an opportunity; this can be the perfect year to make a bold move and re-purpose the time that was to be used to manage the US OPEN and make available all the USTA resources to together try to solve the problem the sport faces in the country and that is: the lack of participation. Now is the perfect time to bring shareholders and stakeholders together with local and fresh ideas and to flush them out with a group of leaders to undertake a major brain-trust infusion to solving the problem which is to grow the sport. Here are some facts and ideas to solve the problem this crisis has created:

  • Rather than give away $50,000,000.00 in prize money, use the crisis to fund that amount of money and restarting tennis in the USA. USTA for sure has business interruption insurance so they should be flush with cash in the crisis.

  • The pandemic will prove that some sections have hoarded money for programs for their survival, they can use that money for exactly that purpose, saving the USTA national at least half of the other $49,000,000.00 it uses to fund the 17 sections, that’s $24,500,000.00 more to the pot in addition to the $50,000,000.00 in prize money saved. Now we can start the new Community tennis initiative with $75,000,000.00 without disrupting anyone or anything, this sounds good to me and it's in alignment with the mission.

  • The entire Nonprofit sections will have to come to terms with the fact that they relied so heavily on the grants money and ask the questions that need be asked. What value do you bring to the community you serve? and how do your financials reflect that? We guarantee employment for everyone for one year but that is all funding keeps flowing but only for one year. This will be a way to make efficiencies work and avoid duplication of work and to manage the risk of the lack of funds and be honorable and decent to all the people employed and honor all obligations up to the determined date.

  • The come to Jesus moment has come and we can make it a WIN-WIN for all.

  • This is a once in a lifetime moment that needs to be used for the benefit of ALL the tennis community.

  • We plan for a tennis summit with all stakeholders involved. We schedule a state of the sport address to be held yearly on a given date, we change the entire dynamic of the direction of the sport for the benefit of all.

  • We help the new CEO position the organization to achieve its mission.

  • We maneuver through the crisis. Not only it is possible, it the right thing to do. The key is to do this together though. Otherwise, it's an absolute failure of leadership at the move favorable time for the sport.

 

Conclusions

If the USTA does not follow this advice what will happen? What has always happened, nothing, the valuable resources and time being misused, the flawed funding of nonexistent player development and the collective destruction of the sport from the top-down and the purposeful avoidance of any responsibility to the mission as we clearly can see the demise of the sport everywhere in our county. We have tried this method before year after year, it does not work. There is no need to try it again for another year and expect a different outcome. The sport and the USTA have never had such a great opportunity to re-purpose the time, its time to think of the sport and how we grow it from the bottom up.

There will be no better time and occasion than now ever again in our lifetimes. Why not use it to do what has been missing? Why don’t we do the smart thing? The community thing? The honorable thing? after all that is the purpose of a not for profit enterprise is it not?

The last point; extraordinary times need extraordinary responses, let's make of this moment be an inflection point, this is the opportunity the USTA and the sport needed, let us use it as what it is, an occasion to do good by all and have the sport be the priority of the entire USTA, not just the 2-week show. You can also think of it as a wartime situation, our entire world of tennis has been attacked, what do we do? we worry about the people and businesses that care for tennis 52 weeks of the year or a 2-week show? I will forever always choose the workers, the kids, the parks, the cities, the coaches, the clubs, the people wouldn't you?

-I could not agree more my friend says, you have valid points, cancel the show! And where is the meeting taking place? I'm in!

You are welcome to reach me anytime @palenquej or jpalenque@yahoo.com

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