Australian Open projects financial hit topping $78M, tournament director says

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian Open is expecting to record a loss of more than $78 million (AU$100 million) for running the tennis season’s first Grand Slam amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tournament director Craig Tiley said Friday.

The government-imposed restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus meant Tennis Australia was already having to deal with a crowd cap of 30,000 spectators per day. But when the state of Victoria was plunged back into a snap five-day lockdown on Day 5 of the tournament, the Melbourne Park gates had to be shut to the general public, and more than 100,000 tickets were refunded.

In addition to the lost revenue from ticket sales, Tennis Australia has also had to foot the bill for a host of coronavirus-related protocols, including the “hard quarantine” players were forced into upon arrival in Australia last month, when several cases of the virus were detected on chartered flights into the country.

“It’s going to be tough [to look at the loss],” Tiley told Melbourne radio station SEN. “It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to lose multimillions of dollars on this event.

“Obviously we took a big hit with five days with no fans, as you don’t sell merchandise [and] sponsors don’t get activation. You don’t sell tickets or premium hospitality. So five of 14 days, that’s a big hit.

“We have AU$80 million in reserve and we will exhaust that and we will take anywhere from a AU$40 to 60 million loan. It’s a big loss, but we haven’t finalized the number yet. We’ve still got to see what our receipts are.”

Despite the financial hit Tennis Australia is expected to take, Tiley said this year’s running of the Australian Open is proof that international sporting events can continue as the world battles to contain COVID-19.

Just one player contracted the virus while in Melbourne, and there have been no community transmissions linked to the tournament, according to the numbers released daily by the Victorian government.

“We said all along that it’s important to do this because we have to have a platform to grow for 2022,” Tiley said. “Australia’s now got a playbook that we can share with the rest of the world.

“We’ve made Melburnians, Victorians and Australians proud that no one in the pandemic has brought in this many international stars from that many hot spots around the world and played an international sporting event for AU$86 million and in front of crowds.

“Maybe there’s a way for us to get sports and entertainment up and going again; we’ve got the model and we’ve learned a lot.”

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