Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is ‘optimistic’ that fans can return for the latter stages of the tournament, once a five-day lockdown in the state of Victoria ends on Wednesday. The season-opening Grand Slam had been played in front of a reduced capacity for the opening five days but spectators were sent home as the government moved to suppress a local coronavirus outbreak with a lockdown from midnight.
“It’s a massive blow. We had five days of magnificent momentum building up to where we were almost at capacity on Friday, and then we were sold out yesterday, sold out today, sold out tomorrow and sold out for finals weekend,” Tiley said. “We were going to have the maximum amount of allowable crowds and it was going to be a magnificent ride for two weeks. Hopefully, this gets lifted on Tuesday or Wednesday and then for the semis and finals, we can have crowds back.”
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but it would certainly be great if it does. It is an extremely costly exercise for us because we are now no longer generating revenue from ticket sales or hospitality and we have the same costs we had before,” he added. “It’s going to be a tough road pulling out of this financial hole that we will be in, but we still believe it is the right thing to do for investing in the game, and for getting fans and players back out there. I’m optimistic that we will have fans on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we certainly would welcome it, because we were on the path to having 75 per cent of the stadium full.”
“We have been on a massive learning curve; this is not the same model for everyone or tempered for everyone, but this one has worked and I think it can be applied in many cases,” Tiley continued. “It is a massive team effort – 600-strong permanent staff, we employ thousands of people, 8,000 to 10,000 people. I’m incredibly proud of the work that they have done as a group and how everyone has come together in such a great way.”