ITF to furlough staff, 900 tournaments postponed

LONDON (Reuters) - The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said 900 tournaments across all its circuits had been postponed so far because of the coronavirus pandemic and that it was furloughing half its staff.

In a statement, tennis’s governing body said it was implementing a range of measures to “safeguard jobs and protect the long-term health of our organization and our sport” with president David Haggerty voluntarily taking a 30% salary cut for the rest of the year.

“The situation we are facing represents a fundamental challenge to our organization and our sport,” Haggerty, who was re-elected for another term last year, said in a statement.

“Our purpose is to ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of our sport in collaboration with our 210 member nations, which is why we are making difficult decisions in the short term so that we can continue to deliver tennis for future generations across the globe.”

The London-based governing body said half its staff would be placed on the UK government’s job retention scheme.

Under the scheme, employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ monthly wages, capped at 2,500 pounds ($3,085) per month.

The ITF will top up those payments to ensure all furloughed staff receive 80% of their full salary.

Non-furloughed staff will work a reduced four-day week and the ITF will pay them 90% of their salary. The chief executives and directors will work also work four-day weeks and will be paid 80% of their salary.

The ITF’s revamped Fed Cup Finals was one of the high-profile events postponed. It was supposed to have taken place this month in Budapest.

“We have postponed more than 900 tournaments across all ITF circuits, including the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals 2020, and it remains uncertain when play can resume,” a statement read.

“While postponing events and prioritising safety is the appropriate response in these exceptional circumstances, it has resulted in a number of complex challenges, including a significant loss of income.”

With so many tournaments postponed, the earning potential of hundreds of players has effectively dried up -- a serious issue for those lower down the rankings who struggle to make a living even in normal times.

The ITF said it was in discussion with other tennis stakeholders to provide support for nations and players.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar