The coronavirus pandemic not only forced to suspend competition from professional tennis tournaments. In almost all the world, the clubs, schools and training centers of this sport, which are now struggling to survive, also had to close their doors. And in the United States they put together a billionaire rescue plan.
85 percent of tennis facilities had ceased to function in late March in that country. So the American Tennis Association (USTA) planned to earmark $ 15 million to ensure that all facilities can continue to function once the global health crisis is overcome.
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Of that amount, five million will be dedicated to tennis facilities that are open to the general public and that may require support to return to normal operations when activities resume.
Another five million will go to tennis and education programs in the neediest communities, and some 2.5 million will serve to provide some relief to teaching professionals, who will be covered a significant portion of their licenses next year.
The rest will go to other support funds, such as telephone counseling to deal with the emotional effects of the pandemic or legal consultation for those who wish to claim the government aid provided through the Care Act.
“We have to keep these tennis clubs and teaching professionals afloat through this as much as we can,” said Mike Dowse, executive director of USTA.
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Dowse clarified that this rescue plan will not suffer any cut if the United States Open, which for now remains firm on its date from August 24 to September 13, ends up being canceled. The US Grand Slam, which generates about $ 400 million a year and unlike Wimbledon does not have insurance against pandemics, is the main source of income for the USTA. And if not disputed, the organization could end the season with losses.
However, even in this scenario, aid will reach the places that need it. It is that the USTA also decided to reduce the salaries of senior executives by 20 percent during the rest of the year.
The salary cut, which will affect a little more than 40 percent of the organization, added to another related to marketing expenses, would generate about 20 million dollars that will guarantee that the financing project will continue even if finally there is no action. In New York.
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“These plans will continue. What we are proposing right now was based on what we know we can do, and then if we can do more, we will try to do more,” Dowse said.
About the possibilities that the United States Open will have to change its date or cancel its 2020 edition due to the health crisis or if the contest should be held behind closed doors, the leader assured that there is nothing concrete.
“Obviously, our ambition is to host the tournament. It is the engine of our organization … That said, this will not be the main factor now. The main factor will be the health and well-being of the players, the fans and the staff. Although We still do not have a specific date to make a decision in this regard, I think we will have a more complete and real vision at the end of June. Preparing the tournament is not an easy thing and therefore considered that at that time of the year we should already have the definitive answer “, analyzed
In addition, he clarified that if the health crisis is overcome and the contest can be held on the scheduled date, they will have no trouble completing the preparations even though today the facilities of the Flushing Meadows complex, host of the tournament, are currently being used as a medical hospital temporary with 470 beds and meal distribution.
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Dowse also commented that while his organization does not currently plan to financially assist lower-ranking professional players, many of whom suffer from being unable to compete and cash in their prizes, they have been in contact with circuit leaders and other Grand Slams tournaments to find a way to help tennis players ranked outside the top 100 and that there could be news about it in the coming weeks.