While the tennis world pays its respects to the retiring Andy Murray, there is a crisis developing at the heart of the men’s tour, with the ATP player council meeting in Melbourne on Saturday to discuss the possible ejection of president and chief executive Chris Kermode.
The Telegraph has seen a strongly worded email, sent out by player council member Vasek Pospisil to the players ranked between 50 and 100, which calls for the workforce to “start acting and running like a business not like a bunch of scared kids … we need a CEO that first and foremost represents OUR interests”.
Pospisil’s argument has much in common with last year’s suggestions from Novak Djokovic – the chairman of the player council – that tennis should have a player’s union that is separate from the ATP. As Pospisil writes “the governance structure of the ATP favours the interests of the tournaments and its [their] owners … It’s time for a change and it can be achieved by staying unified and demanding what we deserve for our hard work”.
The move is carefully timed because the ATP board is due to vote on the possible renewal of Kermode’s contract before the end of the month. There are three tournament representatives on the ATP board and three player representatives: namely Justin Gimelstob (the commentator and ex-player who is facing assault charges in Los Angeles), David Egdes (Gimelstob’s close associate from the Tennis Channel, and a temporary board member who came in less than two months ago) and Alex Inglot (formerly director of communications at the betting data firm Sportradar).
Kermode needs two of the three board members from each side of the ATP to support him if his contract is to be renewed. But if the ATP player council instruct their three representatives on the board members to oust him, it seems likely that a cold war will break out between the players’ side of the organisation and the tournaments’ side.
Meanwhile the former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka told the Telegraph that he cannot understand why Kermode needs to be removed. “It [the vote] is big for the sport,” said Wawrinka. “The most important will be to keep our president. All the things going on behind [the scenes] to try to put pressure on some people, to try to move the actual person, doesn’t feel clean, doesn’t feel good.
“If you look what’s happened the last few years with our president, I think he only helped the tennis to be in a better place. I personally think if you look only at the results – about the tennis, about the image, about the prize money and about everything – he did a great job by upgrading everything.
“I also think that some people have some personal interest for sure. But at the end of the day I also think that you need to see the big picture. What’s the reason for changing? Is the prize money not high enough? Is the calendar not good enough? I don’t know. But there should be a reason to move someone at that spot after a few years going quite positive for the tennis. That’s maybe where it’s a bit strange.”