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Hopman Cup future creates uncertainty in WA Tennis

Hopman Cup future creates uncertainty in WA Tennis
March 14, 2012

The Hopman Cup's future as a major event in Australia's summer tennis program is in doubt as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reviews its management role of the event.

Currently managed by tournament director Paul McNamee's Paul McNamee Enterprises, backed by the Western Australian Government through its EventsCorp agency, the popular event is seen as an important part of the scheduling for the new $550 million Perth Arena - where it will relocate next year from the Burswood Dome.

A bid by Tennis Australia, backed by state tennis body Tennis West, to manage the event has raised fears in Western Australian that the event may be downgraded.

Over recent weeks, media outlets in Western Australia have suggested that Tennis Australia, which already runs the Brisbane International tennis tournament in the same week, may look to relocate or change the timing of the Hopman Cup. Both events cater for men and women and are considered key lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open. Unlike the Hopman Cup, the Brisbane International doesn't have a commercial naming-rights sponsor.

WA Tourism Minister Kim Hames summed up local fears when interviewed on the Perth's 6PR radio station, stating "we're not confident that they (Tennis Australia) would give it a better shot than the Brisbane event, and we're not confident that they would keep Paul McNamee there."

Hopman Cup Assistant Tournament Director Rob Casey also told 6PR recently that Tennis Australia's desire was to monopolise tennis, adding "(the) Hopman Cup is not in their stable. Therefore it affects Brisbane, therefore their business plan is to take over Hopman Cup."

Tourism WA Chief Executive Stephanie Buckland told The Sunday Times that Tennis Australia had vested interests in rival tournament the Brisbane International which is run simultaneously and said the State Government had "concerns" it would jeopardise the Hopman Cup continuing in WA.

Buckland explained "Tourism WA is aware that the International Tennis Federation, which owns the Hopman Cup, is reviewing the management structure of the tournament and Tennis Australia is interested in managing the tournament.

"As a major sponsor of the Hopman Cup, Tourism WA wants the best outcome for Perth, and has some concerns as Tennis Australia also runs the Brisbane International at the same time as the Hopman Cup, and this could pose a conflict of interest."

As a result, the Western Australian Government has submitted its own rival bid to run the tournament, also known as the ITF World Mixed Team Championships, which would likely see McNamee continue to manage the event.

However, Tennis Australia has given the WA Government a guarantee that the Hopman Cup will stay in Perth if it wins the management rights to the tournament.

Tennis Australia has launched a bid to run the 24-year-old tournament for the next five years, with an option for another five. Chief Executive Steve Wood told The West Australian newspaper that it had no plans to downgrade the event "our sole interest is in growing the event.

"We know that successful tournaments drive public interest, and interest means more players - that's really what our work is all about.

"There is a lot of emotion and misinformation going around about our intentions."

Tennis Australia has written to the Western AustralianGovernment to offer guarantees around issues including the quality of the playing line-up, the Hopman Cup's place in the tennis calendar two weeks before the Australian Open, and Australian and international television exposure.

Wood believes that running tournaments in Brisbane, Hobart and Perth ahead of the Australian Open would make it easier for Australia to attract the world's best players against bids from other tournaments in the Middle East and Asia, adding "we are not a private promoter trying to line our own pockets."

The role of McNamee's Paul McNamee Enterprises in running the Hopman Cup is also being reviewed by the ITF.

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