The International Tennis Federation announced Thursday that the longstanding Fed Cup competition is being renamed the “Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas“.
It is now the first major global team competition to be named after a woman, per the ITF. The Fed Cup began in 1963, to mark the 50th anniversary of the ITF.
Last year, the event announced an increase in the prize money to £12 million ($15.4 million US), in line with the Davis Cup.
Unfortunately, neither event’s final event is being played in 2020 because of the pandemic. And so the rebranding will (hopefully) kick in in 2021.
The new-format Fed Cup finals were modeled on the revamped Davis Cup finals except with 12 teams rather than 18. They were to be held in April in Budapest, Hungary.
The Davis Cup finals were to be at the Caja Magica in Madrid in November.
(Back in 1995, the “Federation Cup” was renamed the “Fed Cup” because “Federation Cup” was considered too long. But we digress).
“A fitting tribute”
ITF President David Haggerty: “The new name is a fitting tribute to everything she has achieved and will provide a lasting legacy that will inspire future generations of players and fans.”
King was appointed the competition’s first global ambassador last year.
Billie Jean King: “There is nothing quite like the feeling of representing your country and being part of a team, which is why this competition is so special and important to me. It is an honour to have the women’s world cup of tennis carry my name. And it’s a responsibility I will not take lightly. Our job is to share this vision with future generations of young girls, because if you can see it, you can be it.”
BNP Paribas continues support of women
Prominent tennis sponsor BNP Paribas quietly stepped away from the Davis Cup last year after 17 years.
The catalyst was the fact that historic tournament was taken over by Gerard Piqué and the Kosmos group. It was a bit of a coup, one that received full backing from the ITF suits.
Tennis fans were not so thrilled about the change. Notable among the objections was the fact that the home-and-away format for the competition was eliminated.
Home ties generated so many memorable moments, now gone. And the same will be true in the new Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas format.
(The Davis Cup is now the “Davis Cup Finals by Rakuten, the World Cup of Tennis”, or some such nomenclature – it changed a few times).
The first edition of the revamped format in Madrid last November played to largely empty stands. The notable exception was host country Spain and its star, Rafael Nadal.
The challenge is to get fans who would support the Davis Cup at home to travel all the way to Madrid – not knowing if their team was going to qualify for the playoff round. That was just one of the challenges the new version faced as the new owners stomped on the process with heavy boots.
Two new sponsors added
But the France-based BNP Paribas has retained its sponsorship of the women’s and junior events.
At the time of the announcement about Davis Cup, BNP Paribas was said to be continuing its support of the women’s event until 2021. The ITF confirmed to Open Court that the company has extended its sponsorship through 2022. But that obviously is still not a locked-in commitment as the event goes forward. At least, not yet.
The Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas (BJKCBBNPP) has also added Microsoft as Global Technology and Innovation partner.
Magellan Corporation, an Illinois-based global steel distributor, has also been added as a Global Partner.