Indians will get a chance to see tennis greats such as Martina Hingis and Venus Williams play live in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, in Vijay Amritraj's Champions Tennis League (CTL), from November 17. The six-city domestic tournament will see 18 international and six national players in action during the 10-day tournament. Other players who have signed up for the league include Mark Philippoussis, Somdev Devvarman, Jelena Jankovic, Mikhail Youzhny and Pat Cash.
Promoted by Amritraj's sports management company Second Serve, the CTL will feature six teams, one each from Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. The promoter announced five of the six team owners at the launch event of the league held in Mumbai on Wednesday. Mittu Chandilya, chief executive of Air Asia, has come on board as the owner of the Bangalore franchise. Former Team India captain Mohammad Azharuddin is part of the consortium that owns the Chandigarh team.
CTL will have 13 matches played over the 10-day period, with the teams structured into two groups, each having three teams, where all teams play each other. The teams with the highest number of games (not sets) won in their respective group, will play each other in the grand finale to win prize money of Rs 1 crore. The runner-up will get Rs 50 lakh.
The business model followed by the CTL is slightly more skewed towards the franchises, reveals Amritraj. "We wanted to make sure the team owners are comfortable with the investments they have made and build their confidence. So we have ensured they have minimum hassles. For example, the entire on-ground responsibility like booking the stadia and managing it will be taken up by the league. However, 100 per cent of the ticket revenues will go to the franchises," says the veteran tennis player.
The franchises have each forked out Rs 6 crore as franchise fees this year, and Amritraj informs the amount will not change from year to year. The franchise fee is a lump-sum payment towards the league, which includes the cost of acquiring the team, player fee and on-ground cost. The only expenses the teams will now have to bear is the marketing and promotion cost, which the league has left up to the individual team owners.
Despite the tournament's business structure being skewed towards the franchises, Amritraj is optimistic of breaking even in the second or third year.
The team owners have committed themselves to a period of nine years and the CTL has the support of the All India Tennis Association for the same period. The latter is extendible up to another nine years. Multi Screen Media's (MSM)'s Sony Six is the broadcaster of the tournament in the Indian sub-continent, while in North America, the tournament will be aired on the Tennis Channel, which has a reach of 55 million homes in the region.
Amritraj informs he intends to have eight teams in the tournament eventually, and hints at the possibility of foreign owners in the coming years. "In the first year, I wanted to focus on getting the players to India and building the league. I am in touch with potential team owners from abroad, but will wait till the next year to announce anything concrete," he says.
The players for the tournament were segregated into the respective teams through a draft process on the launch day. The teams were sorted in serial order from one to six by a draw of lots and then each team took turns to pick one player from four categories - international legends, international male players, international female players, and national male players. Two spots on each team have been reserved for players from the under-21 pool, which will be picked on the recommendation of the AITA.