The brouhaha over Vijay Amritraj’s exclusion from the Chennai Open’s draw ceremony is being portrayed as an insult to a India tennis great. Facts though hint at the usual evil: money.
Documents accessed by HT prove that Amritraj was paid $140,000 (approximately Rs 65.1 lakh) for each of the previous two editions. That’s over twice the amount the singles winner gets — $68,450 (Rs 31.8 lakh). Officials also say a similar sum was paid for the three years before that.
This year, Amritraj’s position as chairman of the organising committee has been taken over by Karti Chidambaram who is working in honorary capacity.
Asked if the fee was a factor in his removal, Amritraj said: “Absolutely not. This is my hometown. I am going to be here irrespective of anything.”
The economics, however, seem to be very much an issue for the Tamil Naidu Tennis Association (TNTA). It has raised roughly Rs 9.75 crore for the event and expects a profit of about Rs 1 crore. However, there is considerable heartburn among officials who feel that they do all the work in honorary capacity while Amritraj, seen as the face of the event, makes a handsome sum. Also, for the last seven years, Amritraj’s son, Prakash, got wildcards into the main draw under the patronage of a committee his father had a major say in.
Sports management group IMG own the rights of the tournament. Apart from questioning the amount of money that Amritraj is paid, the TNTA has also renegotiated the amount that IMG charged, bringing it down from $1.8 million (Rs 8.37 crore) to $1.7 million (Rs 7.91 crore). These measures were considered imperative as the event was unable to generate a sound profit last year. When asked as to what was Amritraj’s precise role for which he was paid such a whopping sum, IMG could not provide any precise details under the plea that it was confidential.
TNTA is also looking to rein in the appearance money. After years of speculation, documents with HT finally allow the appearance money to be fixed at a conclusive figure of $400,000 (Rs 1.86 crore). However, Chidambram has cracked down on the appearance fee from this year with Leander Paes being the first casualty.