Australian Open boss leave nothing to chance


Australian Open update Aug 2020 Image: ATP

Stage 4 restrictions amidst a full lockdown are in place in Melbourne, Australia, which saw a resurgence in COVID-19 cases recently.

However, coronavirus or no coronavirus, Craig Tiley, CEO of Tennis Australia and Director of Australian Open, along with his team have been working overtime. Shortly after the 2020 edition of Australian Open – which was a huge draw – drew to a close, Tiley and his team started chalking out strategies to ensure next year’s fixture goes ahead without any hitch.

Tennis Australia is the governing body for the sport of tennis in Australia. The organization exists to promote tennis and to conduct domestic and international tournaments on behalf of Australia, including the Australian Open and the Davis Cup for the Australian Davis Cup Team.

Ticket sales will start in October and five “bio-secure bubbles” will be opened across the country six weeks before the tournament begins to allow players arriving in Australia to avoid the most restrictive quarantine measures, Tiley informed.

“We’re going to open our bio bubble from the first of December and players can come at any time,” Tennis Australia’s head honcho Tiley affirmed.

“When the players arrive, our expectation is they’re not going to be in a hotel for 14 days like the current requirements are. We’ll have an exemption within this bio-secure bubble. We’ve said every year that we’re the ‘happy slam’. But now we’re saying we’re the ‘very safe and happy slam’, Tiley added.

Tennis Australia’s crisis management team, set up because of the bushfire smoke that threatened this year’s tournament, has put a business and operational plan in place for each of the scenarios they came up with.

The first scenario is the event being held in much the same way as 2020, while the second is a tournament with limited crowds, informed Tiley.

“Scenario Three is behind closed doors, a broadcast-only event. Scenario Four is moving to another time of the year, and Scenario Five is no event at all,” Tiley added.

Tiley is confident of being able to welcome some 400,000 fans to Melbourne Park in 2021, about half the number that attended this year’s event.

The vast site, which covers an area of about 2.5 kilometers, will enable organizers to put in place physical distancing effectively, while the wearing of face covers will be made mandatory.

“We’ve established a strategy and an operational plan for all our fans and how they will be positioned around the site,” Tiley continued.

Tiley said they would consult with the main tours if they were forced to reschedule, not act in a unilateral manner as the organizers of the French Open did when they moved their event from May to September end.

The Australian winter would rule out the months of May to July as prospective windows but March-April or September-October could be looked at, he stated.

Tiley informed that organizers had hired the services of a “global expert” to help set up the bio-security bubbles and testing facilities in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, which will allow players to attune and train for the Grand Slam.

The Australian Open, which has been held in Melbourne since 1972, is the chief source of revenue for Tennis Australia and the last edition had a direct economic impact of A$387 million ($277 million) on Melbourne, Tiley informed.

Tennis Australia expects turnover and revenue from the next edition to decrease by a double-digit percentage but they would not be reducing the A$71 million prize purse.

“I’m optimistic and positive that we’ll have an event and it’ll be in Melbourne,” said Tiley, adding that Tennis Australia had cash reserves of A$80 million to hinge on in the event the tournament had to be canceled.

“It will have some crowds and it’ll be the beginning of kind of getting back to the way we were,” said an optimistic Tiley.

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