Sport

Tennis-major leagues cannot abide by WTA sanctions against China

FILE PHOTO: China's Peng Shuai hits back at Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro during their women's 1st round tennis match at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
FILE PHOTO: China’s Peng Shuai hits back at Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro during their women’s 1st round tennis match at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games August 11, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville

December 3, 2021

By Rory Carroll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) shocked the sports world this week when it suspended tournaments in China over concerns for Peng Shuai, but the tournaments are larger and more regulated. More investment than expected will not continue.

WTA President Steve Simon still doesn’t believe Peng, the former world No. 1 in doubles, can speak or move freely three weeks after he went missing three weeks after accusing a former top Chinese official of assault. sex.

Sports marketing analysts say the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the English Premier League (EPL) have a much larger financial stake than the WTA but are unlikely to take on China because of Peng .

Those two tournaments – which have drawn criticism from Beijing in the past when members have voiced their political views on issues ranging from Hong Kong to the Uighur ethnic group – have yet to speak out about the player. this.

“There’s no doubt that the NBA and the Premier League both look pretty weak in the face of the WTA,” said Victor Matheson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and an expert in sports economics.

“That being said, the NBA has a $1.5 billion deal to broadcast games in China, and the EPL has signed a deal somewhere in the $700 million range.”

Neither the NBA nor the Premier League immediately responded to requests for comment.

China has not responded to Peng’s assault allegations, although it has denounced the politicization of tennis, saying her case was inflated for bad reasons and pointing out that she appeared in mid-November. at a dinner and a tennis tournament.

Despite the withdrawal from China, the WTA can in fact alleviate the financial damage by moving tournaments elsewhere, as it did during the COVID-19 pandemic, while discrediting itself. in the West by standing up against the Beijing government.

‘MONEY MONEY MONEY’

“I’m not saying human rights should be dwarfed by dollars and cents, but it’s a much tougher decision for the NBA and the EPL when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars compared to the WTA,” added Matheson. .

Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing analyst at Pinnacle Advertising, said the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will welcome the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, has sought to reassure the public about Peng. .

“More than any of these tournaments, they are about money, money, money… it will be really interesting to see how it all plays out because in Beijing it will become more intense with more rallies. love and pressure from outside groups. ”

When asked for comment, the IOC, which held two video calls with Peng, reiterated their support for her and said it would hold a personal meeting with players in January.

Other major sports leagues might sing a different tune if one of their players goes missing in China, but since that happens, they can take the wait-and-see approach, Dorfman said. .

“If (Golden State Warriors keeper) Klay Thompson goes to China to promote his shoes and disappears, maybe, but at this point, that’s a bit far-fetched and there’s way too much money going for the NBA and IOC ,” I said.

“All of these companies are global and they have huge amounts of money in China, and China is one of the biggest developed markets in the world. It would be difficult for any global company to turn its back on them at this point. “

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Huynh Nguyen

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