Tampax rejected as tour sponsor

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TENNIS

The women's tour, concerned about its image and marketing, has rejected a lucrative sponsorship from the manufacturer of Tampax tampons. The New York Times reported yesterday that the tour turned down the three-year offer of at least $10m (£6.4m) despite the fact it has been operating without a major sponsor for the past year.

"We were caught in a Catch-22 situation," Martina Navratilova, the president of the WTA Tour Players' Association, said. "The players wanted to support it, but we came to realise that it was economically unfeasible.

"We couldn't risk losing the local tournament sponsors, which is where our $35m in prize-money comes from, because they didn't want to be associated with a WTA Tour presented by Tampax. It shouldn't be a stigma but apparently it still is."

The tour has been seeking a sponsor since ending its long and much-criticised relationship with the Philip Morris Corp, the maker of Virginia Slims cigarettes.

Tambrandscoei, the manufacturer of Tampax, sought to become the global sponsor but the offer failed to gain the support of tournament officials, including those at the four Grand Slams.

"We received a tremendous backlash for even considering the proposal," Anne Person Worcester, the chief executive officer of the WTA Tour, said. "It's not a personal decision, it's not a political decision, it's a business decision."

An official at Advantage International, the firm hired to find a new sponsor, said the tour made a mistake. "Women's tennis had the chance to do something cutting-edge, to lead instead of follow, and instead they've opted for the path of least resistance," Harlan Stone, Advantage's executive vice-president, said.

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