London: Wimbledon started Monday with the threat of a boycott hanging over next year’s Grand Slam tennis showpiece as men players demand more money.
The ATP, the governing body of the men’s game, wants up to 30 per cent of revenue from the four major tournaments to help fund the Tour.
They have warned that rival tournaments could be organised to clash with Wimbledon and other Grand Slam events.
Around 100 players met at the All England Club Saturday to hear a proposal to stage rival tournaments during the Australian, French, US Opens and Wimbledon in 2004.
“We have players who want to create alternative events to run against the Grand Slams,” ATP chief executive officer Mark Miles said. “If we ever got to the point where the players became convinced that the Grand Slams are simply not willing to deal, from our perspective, reasonably with the players’ concerns, we would be prepared to make other plans.
“Nobody wants alternative events but we need to be prepared to take action.
“We have agreed to pursue two tracks,” added Miles. “The first is to keep talking and be patient, the second is to take alternative action.”
Todd Martin, president of the ATP’s player council, admitted Wimbledon officials are yet to be convinced.
“No one wants to miss any events but we will take action,” Martin said.
“Initially, the Wimbledon reaction was defensive in the true sense of the word. They have told us what they do with the money. We are continuing the dialogue to find a consensus with the Grand Slams individually.
“Wimbledon have told us what they will do with their money and that is what we disagree about. Hopefully, everything can be sorted out.”
The total prize money for Wimbledon this year is £ 9,373,990 ($ 15.5 million) of which £ 4,666,370 ($ 7.76 million) goes to the men’s singles and doubles events.
Last year’s Wimbledon surplus of £ 25.6 million ($ 42.5 million) was handed over to the Lawn Tennis Association to invest in British tennis.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon organisers shot down the proposal as ‘unacceptable’ and said they were disappointed by the threat from leading men players.
Chris Gorringe, chief executive of the All England Club, said the players had been made a fair and reasonable deal.
“I must admit it’s a bit of a disappointing way to start the 117th Wimbledon championships,” Gorringe told BBC Radio.
“We feel that we do pay very fair and reasonable prize-money, infinitely more than any of the other tournaments around the world other than the other three Grand Slams.”
Asked how the matter might be resolved, Gorringe said: “Dialogue. Talking to the ATP and I think it is important the Grand Slams try to get their message over to the players as to what the reality is.”