AITA pulls purse strings

SP

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Tuesday stepped up the pressure on its players by threatening to stop the funds that they get from the Sports Ministry. This comes a day after the group led by Somdev Devvarman failed to confirm their availability for next month's Davis Cup game while they expressed their reservations about AITA's actions with regard their demands of change.

Speaking to The Indian Express, AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee said, "It is the Sports Ministry that releases funds to the players before the Olympics and other events but it is the federation that recommends their names to the government. If the players who are not willing to play Davis Cup, which is the only time they play for the country, they shouldnn't get the funds." Chatterjee added that the Sports Ministry too wasn't pleased with the stance taken by the players.

In case the fund flow does stop, the players who will be worst affected include Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan, Divij Sharan, Sanam Singh and Saketh Myneni. All five players are active on the Futures and Challengers circuit and bank on the government for financial support.

In a press release on Sunday, AITA had made public a plan that it had formulated to pay its players. According to which Sharan, with a career-high top-100 ranking of doubles was eligible for Rs 4 lakh and Sanam and Yuki with their current singles ranking between 201-300 could get Rs 12 lakh. However, they will stand to lose out on the aid in case they stay away from the Davis Cup. "The younger players should assess if their present stand is worth their careers. They should stay away from politics," Chatterjee said.

The AITA, after announcing the changes based on what the players had recommended, had informed them to communicate their availability for the South Korea tie before the selection committee meeting on January 11 but none of the players, four of whom are in Australia now, have given their consent so far.

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