Saturday, March 28, 2009

The WTA has big shoes to fill

The WTA has big things on its plate: Larry Scott’s Successor as Chairman and CEO better be hungry.

When you peruse Larry Scott’s bio on the WTA’s website it gives you chills. The man’s remarkable tenure with the organization, which began in April of 2003, has been highlighted by so many major advances for women’s tennis it is hard to list them all. Credited most notably as the architect of the largest-ever sponsorship in both women's sports and professional tennis, a six-year, $88-million landmark title sponsorship agreement with Sony Ericsson, his business acumen is laudable to say the least. And yet, after six remarkable years, Larry Scott has left the biggest cookie of them all sitting on the plate of his soon-to-be-named successor.

The merging of the men’s and women’s professional tours was on Larry Scott’s agenda. Sadly, the lack of the merger is one of the reasons that the WTA now has a pair of super-sized shoes to fill. According to The Canadian Press, Larry Scott said he began thinking of leaving tennis when his proposal for a merger with the men’s tour was rejected last year. “For a variety of reasons it wasn’t accepted,” he said. “It’s clear that tennis, for whatever reasons, isn’t ready for that vision to be realized.”

In an era that solidified equal prize money for both sexes in all of the majors, rumors say that tour revenue has increased as much as 250% during the six years.

“We’re all sad,” Venus Williams stated. “He had a special vision and the personality and character and talents and abilities to carry it out. It takes someone special like him.”

All the more reason to begin scanning the globe for not just a replacement, but the kind of visionary that has the sense to realize that the dream might not be as unrealistic as Scott made it sound. Surely it will take effort – effort that the travel-weary Scott isn’t prepared to make. Surely it will take passion and stamina. But the carrot is out there, dangling. We can all see it. A merger would make so much sense for so many reasons. It is the logical progression from equal pay.

The WTA and whoever takes over as CEO need to recognize that the best has yet to come for women’s tennis and tennis in general. Where we are at now is the perfect stepping stone for where the next Larry Scott-like leader needs to take us. Thanks to Larry the future looks bright. What we need now is the person who can make it even brighter.

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