If the new rulings of the ATP World Tour regarding the enforcement of the time violation and the no let rule on the Challenger Tour raised many eyebrows, it seems very little compared to the new ruling of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Pro Circuit regarding the “Data Rights”.
I became aware of this new ruling via my friend and colleague Raul de Kemmeter, and I must say that the more I read about those new rules (and those new rules themselves), the more I discussed them with people, the more perplexed we all became.
What are the new “Data Rights” rules?
In their 2013 Pro Circuit Rulebook, the ITF states, on page 22 (please note that I am omitting the underlining, which is only there to show those are new items added to the Rulebook):
“P. DATA RIGHTS
Refer to Appendix E Media, Commercial and Data Rights for full information.
The ITF will have the exclusive right to provide a scoring service at any ITF Pro Circuit tournament as selected by the ITF. Each tournament will assist the ITF in its efforts to produce the service.
2. Data Protection
Each Tournament shall not allow or authorise the dissemination, transmission, publication or release of any match score or related statistical data from the grounds of the Tournament.”
As for the Appendix E mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, it can be found on pages 33 to 39 of the Rulebook and detail, mostly, the live scoring and live streaming legal terms and details for the ITF Pro Circuit events, as well as those regarding sponsorship.
Understanding the new rule
The appendix part of the rule is fairly easy to understand, both in its formulation and in its purposes.
Having live scores and live streaming provided with a 30-second delay, and coming only from an authorized source (i.e. sold rights from the ITF to, for instance, a betting site) comes from the fact that in May 2012, the ITF signed a four-year deal with Sportradar AG, making the Swiss company its worldwide distributor of official data, as well as its preferred streaming partner, starting this year.
The purpose behind it is simple: making the ITF Pro Circuit more accessible to fans all over the world, which would enable more people to enjoy great tennis from their events. Furthermore, the ITF wants to “eliminate the unauthorised collection, dissemination and use of official or erroneous data and the presence of unofficial data collectors at ITF events”, thus complying with the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) requirements.
The perplexing part
So far, so good. By having official data collected in its events by one and only one source, the ITF ensures that the data provided will be accurate and transparent to those who need it, be they players, players’ teams, media, fans, etc.
Just the same, selling the data collected and live streaming to betting sites and companies so that they can diffuse it is also a normal business procedure, which will keep the whole diffusion process of the ITF Pro Circuit tournaments clean.
Where it becomes perplexing is in the part that cannot be found in Appendix E, namely in the rule itself, especially in its second point:
“Each Tournament shall not allow or authorise the dissemination, transmission, publication or release of any match score or related statistical data from the grounds of the Tournament.”
This is perplexing as many, including yours truly, think that this rule also forbids media, fans, and even players to, for instance, tweet match results as they happen.
If such is the case, it could become somewhat problematic for the media to do a part of their job, which is to inform. It is not as though, as an example, anyone tweets a match point by point. If so, that person is more at risk to not have any followers than anything else.
Furthermore, that kind of diffusion is sure to happen at least 30 seconds after the point/match ends, even if it is done from the side of the court. Also, as there would also now be live scoring, if someone, for example, makes a typo transmitting a result, he would be corrected right away.
On top of that, the little media presence at the ITF Pro Circuit events ensures that the event will have a certain visibility. Considering that, it would not be all too wise to keep us from doing what we go there to do, which is inform about the tournament, matches, players, more often than not the soonest possible.
With all those interrogations, perhaps a little clarification from the ITF would be necessary, and clearly more than welcomed.
Obviously, the Rulebook is not clear enough in the explanation of the rule, as learning about it only raised many a question and started several discussions, some quite heated, since people came aware of its existence.
After all, the media and fans talking about an event as it happens, which means from the grounds, is an important source of publicity for that event, and might help promote it and generate more attendance, especially since they are thriving for it.
If it is only to get rid of the unauthorised gambling, or match fixing, then it definitely is not the way to operate. A more muscled enforcement of the rules, and catching the prime suspects no matter where they rank would be more appropriate than a 30-second delay.
Hopefully the ITF speaks out about it, sooner rather than later.