ATP warns players of unsolicited help from French firm for creation of a solidarity fund

Written by Shahid Judge
| Mumbai |

Updated: April 12, 2020 9:07:35 pm

World no. 375 women’s singles player from Georgia, Sofia Shapatava, had started an online petition to appeal to the ITF to provide financial assistance to lower-ranked players. (AP Photo)

On the evening of April 5, world no. 438 Sidharth Rawat got an email from the ATP. It was a cautionary message, warning the player that a company in France may try to get in touch with him to provide him financial help during the time that the professional tennis circuit is on hold. That email is said to have been sent to every player on the men’s tour.

“When I first saw the message from the ATP, I thought they were warning us about something similar to those fraud mails that keep coming about somebody who wants to give us money and all they need is our bank account,” Rawat says. “I haven’t been approached by this company at all. I only got to know of its existence, or that it even has this kind of scheme, when the ATP sent that message.”

In the letter, the ATP writes that the company Atton & Price claims to be starting a ‘Tennis Solidarity Fund’ and says it’s working closely with the tennis governing bodies.

“The letter implies that the ATP, WTA, and ITF are working with Atton & Price to form this fund, but that is not correct. While each of ATP, WTA, and ITF are exploring options for the financial support of our respective player members during this difficult time, we have no affiliation with Atton & Price,” read the ATP’s letter.

“During this time, we expect that you will be approached with various offers for financial relief. We recommend that you be cautious and confirm the legitimacy of any unsolicited approaches that you receive before you decide to pursue them.”

The tour has been suspended since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players without the income they would have earned as prize money through tournaments.

This lack of funds has, in particular, been problematic to the lower-ranked players who do not earn as much as those competing in the upper tiers of the sport.

Subsequently, world no. 375 women’s singles player from Georgia, Sofia Shapatava had also started an online petition to appeal to the ITF to provide financial assistance to lower-ranked players.

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Claiming to ease the stress on these players, Atton & Price reportedly started approaching them. The management company was started just over two months ago and intend to provide funds to players ranked from 50 to 500. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, the company’s initiative requires at least 100 players to sign a petition, which will then help the company claim 20 million euros from the tennis authorities, which would then be distributed among the players.

Subsequently, the ATP sent the cautionary email to all its players.

“The whole thing has been absurd,” says India no. 4 and world no. 281 Sasikumar Mukund, who has also not been approached by Atton & Price. “Players are well protected by the ATP, so it’s a bit surprising that people actually managed to approach players in this way. At the same time, if this is all fraudulent, it’s really sad that people are doing this at such a time when everyone is suffering.”

Soon after the ATP’s email, the company released a statement from its president Eric Brimberg, a wealth manager, and his business partner Olivier Roumelian, a business lawyer.

“Atton & Price reiterates that its action is intended to help those who need it and that all of the people who have adhered to it and continue to adhere to or support it are not bound by any legal or financial obligation,” reads the statement reported by L’Equipe.

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The company further asserted that they will be looking to collect a fund from private sponsors which they will distribute among players. Meanwhile, former world no, 18 Vijay Amritraj asserted that players will have no choice but to endure this lockdown phase.

“The unfortunate issue is, like every other independent contractor or business in the world, you are not covered for anything. The ITF, ATP, WTA, they are all independent bodies that are pretty much non-profit,” he told The Indian Express last week. “They don’t have large cash reserves like various governments may have to support the system. This is a high-risk venture the moment you step into it, which is where we are all stuck unfortunately.”

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