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Reduced crowd numbers sees Australian Open anticipating $99 million loss

Reduced crowd numbers sees Australian Open anticipating $99 million loss
February 23, 2021

Craig Tiley, Chief Executive of Tennis Australia and Tournament Director of the Australian Open, has said that he expects the total losses from going ahead with this year’s tournament to exceed $99 million due to reduced crowd numbers and the additional costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tiley has said it will take years for Tennis Australia to recover the cost of staging this year’s Australian Open, but maintains it has been worth it to further strengthen the tournament’s standing on the tennis calendar.

He advised that the significant fall in ticketing revenue was the biggest contribution to the loss, with the event having operated with a cap of 30,000 spectators per day - around 50% of the usual number of spectators for the grand slam - but also being subject to five days when it operated behind closed doors due to the Victoria’s most recent Coronavirus lockdown from 12th February.

During that time more than 100,000 tickets were refunded.

In total, just over 130,000 people attended the 2021 Australian Open, after a record-setting 2020 which saw 821,000 spectators watch the action at Melbourne Park.

Tiley identified that the second-largest factor in the losses were the costs associated with COVID safety protocols, most prominently the bill for the 14-day ‘hard quarantine’ hotel stays many players had to undergo upon arrival to Australia after the virus was detected on the chartered flights that brought them to the country. 

Speaking to Melbourne radio station SEN on Friday ahead of the Australian Open’s final weekend, Tiley commented “it’s going to be tough. 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 $80 million in reserve and we will exhaust that and we will take anywhere from a $40 million to $60 million loan. It’s a big loss, but we haven’t finalised the number yet. We’ve still got to see what our receipts are.”

Despite the losses, Tiley declared himself proud with how the event had proceeded and said it had given “a playbook we can now share with the rest of the world” for hosting major sporting events while the pandemic continues to impact organisers. 

With only one case of a player contracting Coronavirus was recorded over the course of the two-week competition, Tiley added “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 … 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.”

The losses coincide with the Australian Open posting its lowest TV viewing figures in years.

Incidents at Sunday’s men’s final
Sunday’s men’s single final was marred by two incidents.

Two spectators were ejected from Rod Laver Arena after their protests halted play during the men’s singles final.

Midway through the second set between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, two spectators began yelling loudly, forcing the umpire to call a let and have the point replayed.

Video from fellow spectators appear to show one of the patrons wearing a top with the words ‘end systemic racism’ written on the back as both were escorted from the venue by security.

During the post-game speeches, Tennis Australia Chair Jayne Hrdlicka was booed my members of the crowd when she thanked after she thanked the Victorian Government for making the tournament possible and when she mentioned the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine.

The booing was yesterday condemned by Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack who criticised the "disgusting" behaviour of some Australian Open tennis final fans.

Deputy Prime Minister, McCormack stated “I don't like booing at any event, and certainly any sporting event

"This vaccine is going to get our country back to some sort of pre-COVID normality."

Image: Socially distance crowds at Melbourne Park during the Australian Open.

Related Articles

17th February 2021 - Fans to return to Australian Open and indoor fitness and sport to resume as Victoria lifts Coronavirus lockdown

15th February 2021 - Australian Open generates most positive ‘buzz’ among sporting events and competitions

12th February 2021 - Australian Open to continue without crowds as Victorian Government closes facilities during new lockdown

12th February 2021 - Infosys enhances the digital experience for Australian Open virtual audience

8th February 2021 - COVIDSafe measures in place across Melbourne Park precinct for Australian Open

8th February 2021 - Kia marks 20 years of Australian Open sponsorship with first of its kind experience for tennis fans

5th February 2021 - Australian Open warm-up events recommence after player Coronavirus tests return negatives

4th February 2021 - Australian Open lead-up events impacted after quarantine hotel worker tests positive for COVID-19

30th January 2021 - Victorian Government approves crowd limit of 30,000 per day for Australian Open

29th January 2021 - Australian Open tennis players start leaving hotel quarantine

21st January 2021 - Tennis Australia commits to Australian Open and paying for players’ hotel quarantine

12th January 2021 - Australian Open players and officials to face world’s ‘strictest rules for tennis’

8th January 2021 - 30,000 children to get a taste of Australian Open as part of new school holiday program

7th January 2021 - Melbourne Park to be divided into three zones to ensure fan safety at Australian Open

23rd December 2020 - Melbourne Park’s three main venues to operate with at least 25% capacity for Australian Open

15th December 2020 - Tennis Australia reveals receipt of $4.5 million in JobKeeper support during Coronavirus pandemic

8th December 2020 - Tennis Australia announces new board appointments

10th December 2020 - Australians look forward to introduction of COVID-19 vaccine

25th July 2019 - Tennis Australia to change hardcourt surface for Australian Open 

24th October 2017 - Jetstar Group Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka named Tennis Australia President

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