Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has revealed just how bleak the cash reserves are for the Australian Open with rivals lining up to poach the event.
The damning state of the books, after two years trying to survive through the pandemic, left the Grand Slam open to serious threat of being poached.
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Melbourne holds a long-term contract for the event, but Tiley said private investors and overseas governments lined up to steal the opening Grand Slam away.
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world, in Victoria strict restrictions saw the past two events take place in front of limited crowds.
Although Melbourne has a contract until 2046, Tiley told the Herald Sun: “There was a period back in 2010 when there was significant interest from Sydney and significant interest from Shanghai.”
He also admitted Tennis Australia were approached about moving the tournament elsewhere as Victoria had some of the tightest Covid restrictions in the world for the 2020 and 2021 editions of the event.
Those restrictions saw the Australian Open finances take a monstrous hit and leave them wide open to threats from interstate and overseas.
Discussions at Tennis Australia took place to shift the Grand Slam to Sydney’s shores, where restrictions were less stringent and would have allowed bigger crowds.
“Private equity know that when it’s in good times it’s a very healthy business, very attractive for private equity,” Tiley said to the Herald Sun.
“So there was quite a bit of interest.”
With the pandemic restrictions in the rearview mirror, Tiley said they’ll now start building the bank back up after losing $80m.
“It’s gone from $80m to zero, pretty much,’’ he said.
Sydney have attempted to pinch the Grand Slam from Melbourne in the past, with major interest back in 2010.
While Sydney hoped to once again steal the event, it was interest from China who were looking to host the Grand Slam in Shanghai that loomed large.
Despite having a contract in place until 2046, Tiley said the Victorian government and Melbourne Park needed to stay ahead of the game to ensure the Australian Open remained in Melbourne.
Although having recently undergone a redevelopment, Tiley believes a new stadium is required along with more courts and even expanding on the area of the grounds.
“We do need to develop another master plan and work with the state government on it,’’ he said.
“And there is going to be a need for another stadium, whether that be a refurbishment or a replacement of John Cain Arena
“There will be a need for more courts, as the event grows onto a three week event.’’
The 2022 Australian Open gets underway on January 16 and runs until January 29.