A Q&A with Mark Young, in house general counsel for the ATP, on Visa-Gate:
Simply stated, if a player, based on his ranking, is eligible to be entered into a tournament, the tournament has to accept him, nationality aside.
So who exactly is "the tournament"? Who "owns" tournaments in general, and in the case of the upcoming Dubai tournament and Andy Ram, does the tournament's owner have any relationship with the government of the United Arab Emirates?
The tournament is normally owned by a private entity that chooses to operate a tournament in accordance with our rules. Our tournament in Miami, for instance, is run by IMG, a sports marketing company. Our event in Cincinnati is run by a local nonprofit.
In this case, the tournament member is Dubai Duty Free, a tourism agency in Dubai. I don't know precisely what its relationship is with the UAE, but I feel comfortable describing it as an agency that receives some government assistance. It's akin to a national chamber of commerce, but they (Dubai Duty Free and the UAE) aren't one and the same.
How does the ownership of a tournament work? Is it something the owners have to renew every year, and can the ATP simply strip an owner of its property?
A tournament is a transferable property, and they have the right to have a tournament on our calendar every year--as long as they pay their annual dues to the ATP and follow our rules and obligations. It's perpetual; it doesn't have to be renewed annually.
This week, a lot of people in the sports press said the ATP ought to cancel the event if it turned out Andy couldn't go. I'm sure in a big picture way, that's the right answer, but it's not quite that simple. We have due process hearings and requirements we must follow before we can act. Had we canceled, we'd have exposed ourselves and our membership to legal liability for not honoring a member's rights.
Say the UAE government denied Andy Ram a visa, and Dubai Duty Free came to you and claimed it couldn't do anything to stop the government--that the decision was made over its head, even though it owns the tournament. Could you still take the tournament away from Dubai Duty Free and sell it to someone else? And would you have to compensate Dubai Duty Free?
There is a hearing process, and there is a spectrum of possibilities. But, there is the possibility that the ATP can simply decide it's contrary to the best interests of the ATP and its members to have a particular tournament and to terminate Dubai's membership without compensation. That is a possibility. I'm not saying that's going to happen in this case. I'm only saying it's a possibility.