2021 ASB classic canned, hits 'Aucklands' fragile economy'

Publish Date
Tue, 6 Oct 2020, 4:50PM
ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge. Photo / Photosport
ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge. Photo / Photosport

2021 ASB classic canned, hits 'Aucklands' fragile economy'

Publish Date
Tue, 6 Oct 2020, 4:50PM

The 2021 ASB Classic which was set to begin in early 2021, has been officially cancelled.

The announcement was made this afternoon, forcing tournament director Karl Budge to let go of New Zealand's premier tennis event thanks in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is the first time in the event's history it will not go ahead.

In a release, Budge says it is an unfortunate decision, but safety is their top priority.

"I'd like to thank the incredible dedication from the Classic team, volunteers and our sponsors who have strived tirelessly to make an event happen this summer," he says.

"We know we deliver the best annual event in New Zealand. Today's announcement won't change that. We look forward to the return of the Classic in Auckland next year. The planning starts now."

It is news that was foreshadowed a little under a fortnight ago by Budge himself, who said the Government had gone quiet following three months of discussions with tournament organisers.

Budge said they were at an "SOS" stage and needed to hear back from the Government 'within a few days' in order to lock in players, which it appears never eventuated.

While no players were confirmed, the Herald understands there was a strong possibility 23-times Grand Slam winner Serena Williams was one of the headliners, who would have been defending her 2020 women's singles title.

Budge described the tournament as New Zealand's highest profile sporting spectacle, which has won the best international event five of the past seven years on the WTA Tour.

The Government has already approved a men's and women's cricket schedule for the summer which will see Australia, the West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh all tour. The Silver Ferns also received the green light to host a three match international series with England.

The Government also eased isolation restrictions on the Wallabies who arrived in New Zealand on September 25 ahead of the two-test Bledisloe Cup series with the All Blacks, which kicks off this Sunday.

In a statement shortly after the announcement, the National Party blamed the Government for the cancellation, saying they failed to deliver on promises.

"Ten days ago I raised the alarm that government ministers were dropping the ball on the ASB Classic, and their failure to engage constructively with organisers was putting the tournament at grave risk," said National candidate for Auckland Central Emma Mellow.

"The organisers were left waiting three months for a response from the Government about whether or not they could work on a safe solution."

Mellow says while Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson's assured officials were negotiating with tournament organisers, it does not seem to have been the case.

"The ASB Classic would have made a contribution of $20 million to Auckland's economy. It would have given a real boost to the hospitality and accommodation sector at a time when Aucklanders desperately need it," she says.

"It would have provided valuable exposure of New Zealand to hundreds of millions of people across the world. And it would have given Aucklanders an opportunity to celebrate a major sporting event.

"Yet again, the Government has dropped the ball. Following the loss of the Youth America's Cup, and the World Rugby Championship, this is yet another blow to Auckland's fragile economy."