Melbourne prepares to fend off Sydney in tennis battle

October 11th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 11 (DPA) Sydney is plotting a marketing coup in hopes of stealing the Australian Open away from its longtime Melbourne home by making a more attractive offer to international tennis authorities.Local press reports indicate that the New South Wales capital is keen to lift the Grand Slam grand prize off of it’s hated Victorian rival when Melbourne’s contract with the sanctioning International Tennis Federation (ITF) expires in 2016.

But the bid could well fall short, as did a recent attempt to grab the Formula One Grand Prix, which remains in Melbourne.

“It’s a great stadium, the players love Melbourne, we’ve got the best sports precinct in the world and I don’t think we need to take too seriously the threats that are coming from Sydney,” Victorian state Premier John Brumby told reporters.

“I met last week with Geoff Pollard, the president of Tennis Australia, and we have an excellent relationship with Tennis Australia, we have a fantastic facility,” Brumby said. “We’re working with them to make some improvements and we’ll be making some announcements about that next year.”

Brumby was responding to an announcement by the New South Wales state government that it would build a harbourside stadium to snaffle the tournament when Melbourne’s contract runs out in 2016.

Glebe Island, near Darling Harbour and the Anzac Bridge, is one of the sites being considered for the tennis complex.

But the invaders admit it’s early days in the struggle. “I think the Australian Open is clearly a terrific annual event and it’s something that any events company would be mad not to have on their radar,” said Geoff Parmenter of the Events NSW body.

“It’s very early days. And while we’ve had some discussions with Tennis Australia, there’s nothing formal.”

Sydney has fallen by the wayside in marketing in the wake of a letdown following the 2000 Olympics and would be keen to snatch the Open which generates an estimated 100 million dollars for the Victorian economy each year.

Victorian officials have already laughed off the potential Sydney coup, with the state tourism minister saying the northern rivals had “rested on the laurels of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge” for too long.

But while Sydney may not be able to mount a world-class takeover, that’s not the case with other international rivals for the Grand Slam including Shanghai and Dubai, both cash-flush and keen.

To that end, Australian Open officials have gone hat in hand to the state government in hopes of developing a multi-million-dollar plan to totally revitalise the aging Melbourne Park infrastructure to fend of any possible turf invaders to the money-spinning tennis extravaganza.

A possible decision could be announced during next January’s Open, officials suggest.

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