It’s the biggest and richest event on the annual Australian sporting calendar and Australian Open boss Craig Tiley believes the Melbourne grand slam will provide the economic boost Victoria so desperately needs.
But only if the Australian governments come to the party.
“We can help the Victorian government, we can help the other governments – but we need help too,” Tiley said on Friday.
“We need exemptions on bringing in 2500 people.
“We will make commitments. We will invest millions of dollars into ensuring that they are safe from the community and the community is safe from them and we want to put an event out that our community can really enjoy and be proud of.
“We can say we took a low-risk option and it was a great approach to actually showcase that you can get it going [during COVID-19].”
Tiley is pressing ahead with plans to host the Open from January 18-31, but only if the world’s elite tennis stars aren’t forced into two weeks of hard quarantine.
He is seeking approval for a training bubble to be established, allowing players and their maximum three-strong entourages to travel between their hotel and the courts – provided they are granted exemptions into the country during the pandemic.
“The Australian Open in January will pump millions of dollars directly into the economy for Melbourne and Victoria and play a major role in accelerating the economic recovery in the state,” Tiley said.
“This year alone the AO generated more than $387 million in economic benefit and created thousands of jobs.
“The AO will again provide a massive boost for the tourism, event and hospitality industries, all of which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic this year.
“As well as the economic uplift, we believe the AO is a great opportunity for the state and indeed the nation to start 2021 on a high with an event that the entire country loves and embraces every year hopefully providing something of a morale boost.”
Tiley is pushing to have at least 25 per cent crowd capacity, meaning about 200,000 spectators could file through the Melbourne Park gates.
“Fewer people will come in but it’s broadcast to a billion fans globally. That won’t change,” he said.
“In a year’s time, we’re going to have to have solutions to international travel because our economy won’t survive without that.
“But in the meantime, we’re just working towards that so this year having an event with some crowds, building the confidence back in the community, making a contribution to jump-starting the economy, having a solution to managing this virus, these are all things we can make a contribution to.”
Tiley also pointed out that Tennis Australia was a non-profit organisation.
“That’s the other thing that’s been a bit of a misnomer. We don’t have to run these events because we have to make money,” he said.
“We can shut the business down for six months if we had to and then start it back up if we had to.
“But that’s not in the interests of the local community, not in the interests of the country and the economy.
“We’ve got to all work together to make this happen.”