Laurent Delanney- CEO, ATP Europe Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week
Prior to joining the ATP, Laurent Delanney worked for the international sports management and marketing agency ProServ (now BEST), from 1983 in Paris, France, where he managed the careers of a number of top professional tennis players, including former Roland Garros champion Yannick Noah. He continued to work with ProServ in New York from 1988, before managing the marketing and publication operations of Club Med, the international holiday resort company, in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
ATP Involvement: Laurent has served as the ATP's Chief Executive Officer, Europe, since August 2009. He joined the ATP's European headquarters in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, in 1994, and served most recently as Senior Vice President, ATP Properties, the business arm of the ATP, to develop commercial opportunities for the ATP’s tournament and player members.
You’ve been involved in tennis for over two decades, has it always been a passion to work in the sport and how did you get into the industry?
Well, I’ve always been passionate about the sport and I have played since I’ve been in child. I was born in France, but I was raised in Southern California, so had many opportunities to play tennis there. After I graduated from college, I worked for maybe a year in a family business then I suppose my passion for sports and tennis particularly drew me to find a way to work in the sport. Eventually, I managed to string together a network of contacts and to end up at the right time at the right place.
My first job in tennis was with Proserv Europe, based in Paris and I worked with a number of French junior players, one of which, a female player called Pascale Paradis, who became World Junior Champion and won the Wimbledon Juniors. A few of the others became good coaches and are now on the circuit. To see people like Eric Winogradsky, who worked with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga for many, many years until recently, or Thierry Champion, who worked with a number of French players ,is quite fun too. I grew in the organisation to be able to work with some more well-known names, particularly when Ivan Lendl or Gabriela Sabatini came to Europe. I was responsible for their activities and ended up being the manager for Yannick Noah, who was a very well-known player and a very big star in France.
As CEO of ATP Europe, what are your responsibilities and what are you expected to deliver?
We’re structured in three different regions, Europe, North and South America, and Asia Pacific. The CEOs for the regions are responsible for managing the ATP’s governance of the circuit in their own region. So, from the calendar to the different aspects of running a tournament as part of a circuit in compliance with a certain number of rules so that there’s consistency and of course, the all-important priority of maintaining the integrity of the sport throughout the region. So, on a day-to-day basis I liaise with tournament directors and work with them in preparation of there event in various aspects. What I’m expected to deliver is a coherent, well-run circuit across the region.
With that, I have global responsibility for our sponsorship, sales and management of our sponsors. So, finding, negotiating, contracting and then the implementation of contracts like Corona, Ricoh, South African Airways, FedEx, some recent contracts that we signed just at the end of last year with Moët & Chando, the tourism agreement with Rio de Janiero, as well as long-standing partners like Head.
I’ve found it very interesting to be involved in both of the main missions of the ATP; the governance of the sport and then the second which is the development of the men’s professional circuit, the growth of the circuit from a commercial point of view and being able to have a view on both to have an overall perspective.
Considering the growth of technology and the social media phenomenon, how important is this medium to sustain the popularity of this sport?
It’s becoming more and more critical. It is a new channel to reach and communicate directly with tour fans. It’s a new environment that we certainly have positioned as a priority. I think that one of the things you can do, which is new, is allow fans to have a broader view of the players, meaning that whereas a television broadcast is very much about the matches and seeing the players on court, often referred to as ‘in their office’, with social media players can have a bit more fun in communicating with fans and showing a little bit more light-hearted aspect of their personalities. I think that is critical because the relationship between the fans and a player in an individual sport like this is very strong. It’s built up over many years. For the players, they are in the forefront of the sport for about ten years, you almost see them growing up and this channel allows just a better understanding of the player as a person.
Nine players of the top ten are from Europe, including three from Spain. Is there an explanation for this success? What are federations like RFET doing right? The United States surprisingly haven’t had anyone come up recently and Britain is still longing for someone to win Wimbledon.
There’s a long tradition of high-level tennis in Spain, as well as other European countries like France, for instance. For the circuit overall, whether its in terms of revenue, number of tournaments, number of top players or players in the top 100, Europe is the main region.
In terms of the development of the players, I think there’s just different ways. I’m not so sure that in the United States there’s not going to be a player that would come out and that would be very strong. Sometimes that takes a little bit of time to develop, but I don’t think it’s necessarily due to something being done right or wrong by a particular federation for instance. I think there’s a dynamic of success. In Sweden, after Björn Borg had the incredible career that he had, a number of players that followed in his footsteps. That impact of the role model and the way that it drives the sport is not the only factor, but an important factor that’s often critical. Spain has had through time, Manuel Santana, Manuel Orantes, Sergi Bruguera and Carlos Moya, who was a real model for Rafael Nadal and many other players. How do you explain that Switzerland would have two players that are very much in the top 20 with Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka? Or Serbia, having the presence that they have? I can only say that it’s a combination of many different factors. Consistency in having top players and having a number one player is something very special. It doesn’t happen all the time.
Last year, the schedule was a point of complaint. In terms of the schedule, what has ATP Europe done, or is are looking to do, to make things easier for the players?
All of the decisions first of all are made in consultation with our members, those being the tournaments and the players. So the format in terms of player commitments is something that was discussed, reviewed and decided together with the members. That said, it is continually being looked at, continually being reviewed and recently as we made the decision to shorten the season and prolong the off-season by two weeks. Given the fact that the calendar is so full of events with 62 tournaments on the ATP World Tour, plus the Grand Slams, plus the Davis Cup and all of that in 52 weeks, you have to have an off-season for the players to rest. It’s complex to be able to free up two weeks that way and 2012 is the first season when that will come into effect. That’s just a concrete example that yes we are always looking at ways that these concerns that players can have are taken into account and that action is taken.
Surely, if they have too much on their plate, isn’t it a case of just skipping a few tournaments?
The players do have a responsibility of managing their schedule. I think a player like Roger Federer is a model in managing his schedule, which is one the reason why at the age of thirty he is still playing the way you can see him playing with that wonderful movement on the court, including at the end of the season, where he won again last year, the Barclay’s ATP World Tour Final. That knowledge of your body, of your physical fitness, of your peaks and how to reach the peaks, all of that experience which I’m sure for players takes time to acquire, is a critical factor in this overall question of the calendar.
This year, playing conditions and prize money in Grand Slams are on the players’ agenda. What is the ATP doing in response to the demands?
The ATP listens to its player members and the concerns that the members have. There’s an ongoing dialogue through the year with players, whether that’s through one-on-one meetings, whether it’s through the structure that we have, which involves all the members. You then have councils, you have the players’ council, the tournament council side and you have the board with representatives of the players and the tournaments. On the players’ council, Roger Federer is the President and Rafael Nadal is the Vice President, so the player council is another forum of discussion that exists and you have general meetings with the players, all of them together. It’s a continuous process to be able to listen, to work, to report back on the different issues that the players can bring up.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have had a public disagreement surrounding these issues. What effect do you think a potential strike or simply talk of a strike has on the image of the sport?
Players can have their different points of view. I think that we’re extremely lucky with the way Roger and Rafa are engaged in the circuit and the running of the circuit. We’re luck to have tennis players interested and engaged in the governance of the circuit itself and I think we’re luck because they have a very good relationship. If they don’t agree on everything, that would only be normal. I think that these are complex issues that require analysis, a consensus and a lot of discussion to see what is the best way forward. I think that’s the way the ATP looks to be able to manage this or any other question that comes up.
With your experience in the sport as a professional and as a fan, can you remember a time when the men’s game has been in better shape than it is at the moment? Is their a period that you can remember that can even compare?
I think is a very special time and we’re just coming of a fantastic final at the Australian Open. I’m in the U.S here and yesterday I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and above its masthead was a picture of Djokovic and it said ‘the most exciting sport on the planet’ and then the headline of the actual article is ‘why tennis rules the earth’, including sub-headlines like ‘could a sixty minute Super Bowl equal this kind of drawn out final?’.
It’s hard to draw comparisons, because it’s a different time, but I do think it is at a level of when you had a Borg and a McEnroe. What was different then, it was the very beginnings of professional tennis as we know it today so the excitement generated from a player like Borg, the first kind of rock star of tennis and the challenge coming from a player like McEnroe, again, coming from a different country, with his very unique way and personality. In those days also, tennis was perfect for television. Tennis is a great for the production of a broadcast with the one court, simpler in a way than other sports.
So what’s coming now, I think, is the recognition of that athleticism, that endurance, the physical challenge that’s represented by these long matches between players that are so good that the rallies are of an intensity that just seems to be every year going up and up. The players are just pushing each other to such a high level.
What’s incredible is, at an international level you international stars that are very much recognised on an international level like an Andy Murray, like a Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and many other players on a national level that are right behind those players. It’s driven by a handful of players but it goes very deep on a worldwide level and maybe that’s also a particularity of today. Kei Nishikori from Japan was the first quarter finalist of the Grand Slam ever or for at least many many years for Japan so that global footprint of tennis is something that’s quite unique in the world of sports.

Laurent Delanney Cropped 2

Prior to joining the ATP, Laurent Delanney worked for the international sports management and marketing agency ProServ (now BEST), from 1983 in Paris, France, where he managed the careers of a number of top professional tennis players, including former Roland Garros champion, Yannick Noah. He continued to work with ProServ in New York from 1988, before managing the marketing and publication operations of Club Med, the international holiday resort company, in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

ATP Involvement: Laurent has served as the ATP's Chief Executive Officer, Europe, since August 2009. He joined the ATP's European headquarters in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, in 1994, and served most recently as Senior Vice President, ATP Properties, the business arm of the ATP, to develop commercial opportunities for the ATP’s tournament and player members.

By Edward Rangsi


You’ve been involved in tennis for over two decades. Has it always been a passion to work in the sport, and how did you get into the industry?

Well, I’ve always been passionate about the sport and have played since I’ve been a child. I was born in France, but raised in Southern California, so had many opportunities to play tennis there. After I graduated from college, I worked for maybe a year in a family business. Then I suppose my passion for sports, and tennis particularly, drew me to find a way to work in sports. Eventually, I managed to string together a network of contacts and to end up at the right place at the right time.  

My first job in tennis was with Proserv Europe, based in Paris, where I worked with a number of French junior players, one of which, a female player called Pascale Paradis, became World Junior Champion and won the Wimbledon Juniors. I grew in the organisation and was able to work with some more well-known names, particularly when Ivan Lendl and Gabriela Sabatini came to Europe. I was responsible for their activities and ended up being the manager for Yannick Noah, who was a very well-known player and a very big star in France. A few of the others became good coaches and are now on the circuit. To see people like Eric Winogradsky, who worked with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga for many, many years, until recently, or Thierry Champion, who worked with a number of French players, is quite fun too. 


As CEO of ATP Europe, what are your responsibilities and what are you expected to deliver? 

We’re structured in three different regions, Europe, North and South America, and Asia Pacific. The CEOs for the regions are responsible for managing the ATP’s governance of the circuit in their own region - from the calendar to the different aspects of running a tournament as part of a circuit in compliance with a certain number of rules so that there’s consistency. Also, there is of course the all-important priority of maintaining the integrity of the sport throughout the region. So, on a day-to-day basis I liaise with tournament directors and work with them in preparation of their event in various aspects. What I’m expected to deliver is a coherent, well-run circuit across the region.

With that, I have global responsibility for our sponsorship, sales and management of our sponsors. So, finding, negotiating, contracting and then the implementation of contracts like Corona, Ricoh, South African Airways and FedEx, some recent contracts that we signed just at the end of last year with Moët & Chandon, the tourism agreement with Rio de Janiero, as well as long-standing partners like Head. 

I’ve found it very interesting to be involved in both of the main missions of the ATP. Firstly, the governance of the sport. Secondly, the development of the men’s professional circuit, the growth of the circuit from a commercial point of view and being able to have a view on both to have an overall perspective. 


Considering the growth of technology and the social media phenomenon, how important is this medium to sustain the popularity of this sport? 

It’s becoming more and more critical. It is a new channel to reach and communicate directly with our fans. It’s a new environment that we certainly have positioned as a priority. You can allow fans to have a broader view of the players, meaning that whereas a television broadcast is very much about the matches and seeing the players on court, often referred to as ‘in their office.’ With social media players can have a bit more fun in communicating with fans and showing a little bit more of a light-hearted aspect of their personalities. I think that is critical, because the relationship between the fans and a player in an individual sport like this is very strong. It’s built up over many years. For the players, they are in the forefront of the sport for about ten years and you almost see them growing up. This channel allows just a better understanding of the player as a person.

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