In its 2013 rulebook, the ATP World Tour came up with a modification to the logo usage rule, and this one seems, at first glance, made to accommodate a top player more than anything else.
Among various modifications to the previous rule, including the number of sponsor patches allowed, wearing a sponsor patch on the side of a cap, and such, which are detailed starting on page 152, the general restrictions have been changed as follows:
“vi) Restrictions / General. Tobacco and companies associated with tennis gambling will be prohibited from any endorsements on player clothing.”
(Note: the underlining is mine and not part of the rule.)
It is quite a change, as until now, the rule was:
“viii)Restrictions / General. Tobacco and companies associated with gambling will be prohibited from any endorsements on player clothing.”
(Note: again, the underlining is mine.)
Logical change, but bizarre timing
That change might seem benign in appearance, as well as logical, especially considering that companies associated with gambling have been sponsoring ATP World Tour tournaments for a few years now. Remember the fuss caused when Bet-at-Home became the main sponsor of some tournaments, two years ago?
A little history
In fact, the first ATP event sponsored by a gambling house happened four years ago, as Kitzbühel, an ATP250 event, then had Interwetten as main sponsor. Kitzbühel is, since 2011, mainly sponsored by Bet-at-Home, as is the ATP500 of Hamburg. Furthermore, Bet-at-Home is also sponsoring several ATP events, although not as main sponsor as is the case of the two tournaments mentioned.
However, the players were never allowed to have a gambling house, even not associated with tennis, as a sponsor patch on their shirt… until now.
Oddly timed modification
The timing for this new rule for the players cannot be more bizarre, as it comes several months after ATP star Rafael Nadal announced a sponsorship deal with PokerStars, a gambling company that is not associated with tennis gambling.
Nadal is not the first tennis player to be sponsored by PokerStars. Others who are/were sponsored by them have also, in the past, filed a request to the ATP to be allowed to wear a PokerStars patch on their shirt, requests that were denied.
Suddenly, a top player has such a deal and the rule changes. It is quite fishy, isn’t it? It is particularly so, and as sad as it is unfair, when the ones who have previously made such requests were second-tier players, in dire need of the money such exposure may have brought.
Different rules for the top players?
It is impossible, at times, not to think that there are different rules, or application of the rules, whether someone is a top player or a “middle-fielder”, and this modification to the logo restrictions appears to be another one of those “we accommodate the stars” exceptions.
In this instance, I sincerely hope I am wrong. However, the evidence seems to point in this “another way for top players” direction. After all, why hasn’t the logo rule been modified at the same time as gambling houses started sponsoring tennis tournaments, especially if the player’s sponsorship does not, in any way, touch gambling houses that permit betting on tennis matches?
In this perspective, how is it possible to see any credibility in such rules? Struggling tournaments can be sponsored by a gambling house, whereas struggling players sponsored by a gambling site that has nothing to do with tennis could not, until a top player became the face of the said gambling company that has nothing to do with tennis.
I am not, here, in any way, accusing Rafael Nadal of anything, nor his manager or his team, as they are not the ones who vote the rule changes.
What I am pointing out is that there seems to be inconsistencies in the governing board regarding the treatment of star players compared to the rest of the field.
For example, when the time violation rule enforcement came into effect, there were players, and not only media and fans, who questioned whether or not the top players would have special treatment, as they have been given quite often in the past, when the rule was not enforced much.
This appears to be another case, when lower-tier players were denied having a PokerStars badge on their shirt, whereas now that a top player is sponsored by them, the rule suddenly changes.
Let’s hope that, in this specific case, I end up being in the wrong…