China held talks to move the Australian Open to Shanghai during the Covid pandemic and the $80m loss Tennis Australia took on the event because of the global lockdown could still see the event moved away from Melbourne, according to TA boss Craig Tiley.
In a calculated political move aimed at securing more backing, Tiley told Australian media on Friday the $1 billion of taxpayers’ money handed to the organisation over the past decade to enhance the Melbourne Park precinct was still nowhere near enough to guarantee its survival.
Tiley said Sydney was another option being considered after TA’s cash reserves had “gone from $80m to zero, pretty much” in the past 18 months.
Covid crowd limits for the past two years and the cost of player quarantine has left the organisation on the brink.
Tiley had reportedly held discussions with Sydney and Shanghai over moving the Open in 2020 and 2021, but Melbourne and the State of Victoria has since agreed a deal to keep the competition until 2046.
That agreement is still in doubt as TA looks for funding to expand Melbourne Park ands secure the future of the event.
“I know it was discussed and it was argued,” he told Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper.
“From a personal point, the Australian Open should always be in Melbourne – I’ve always advocated for that.
“But I’m just one person.
“There is an organisation, there is a board, there are stakeholders and there is also the company for the future.”
Private investment groups in both Sydney and Shanghai tried to take the event away from Melbourne in 2010 before the Victorian government handed over $1billion to improve Melbourne Park.
But post Covid and after the most severe lockdown in the world, the left wing Victorian government do not have the cash to fund another expansion.