Hong Kong Open

Funding application for Hong Kong Golf Open rejected

Mega Events Fund rejects request for support for tournament, but organisers remain optimistic about putting on a good show

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 October, 2013, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 October, 2013, 10:16pm

The government's Mega Events Fund (MEF) has delivered another hammer blow to the Hong Kong Open by denying a multimillion-dollar cry for help for a tournament besieged with problems on many fronts.

The Hong Kong Golf Association would not reveal the reasons why it failed in one or more of the criteria: (a) economic benefits; (b) public relations and other benefits; (c) scale of the event; (d) technical feasibility; and (e) financial viability.

But the government would have been far from impressed last year when then world number one Rory McIlroy, missed the cut after receiving the lion's share of the HK$15 million given by the MEF as his appearance fee.

"Unfortunately, our application has been turned down. We are disappointed, but respect their decision," said a diplomatic Tom Phillips, chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association.

This is the second major sporting event to be knocked back in the past month by the MEF. The Hong Kong Sixes was cancelled after cricket organisers were twice turned down.

With nearly HK$200 million in the kitty, the Tourism Commission-run MEF has supported two "mega events" in the last round of applications - the 2013 Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival and the Dragon and Lion Dance Extravaganza 2014.

Phillips did not disclose how much they requested for the December 5-8 showpiece at Hong Kong Golf Club. The tournament has received HK$23 million over the past two years from the MEF, which was put in place in 2009 to provide funding support to non-profit-making organisations to host major arts, culture, sports and entertainment events in a bid to promote Hong Kong as an events capital in Asia.

Jonathan McKinley, who as deputy secretary for Home Affairs sits on the MEF's assessment committee, said: "The standing practice of the MEF Advisory Committee is for all media inquiries to be handled by the committee secretariat under the Tourism Commission."

The Tourism Commission said: "It is the established practice for the MEF assessment committee not to disclose the identity of unsuccessful applicants or the details. Upon request, the secretariat will notify unsuccessful applicants of the reasons for the failure, with a view to assisting the applicants in making necessary improvement in future applications."

This is the latest blow to an event which has failed to find a title sponsor and clashes with South Africa's US$6.5 million Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, as well as Tiger Woods' World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in California.

Even with this major source for appearance money drying up, organisers still remained confident a competitive and attractive field would start at Fanling. The only confirmed name for Hong Kong is defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez.

"We are still confident we will have a strong field," Phillips said. "All the top players on the Asian Tour will be here and we have Spain's Jimenez back again. We remain upbeat this year's Hong Kong Open will be as successful as ever."

If the lack of MEF money was a blow to securing players, the failure to unearth a title sponsor has also led to a massive reduction in prize money by US$700,000 to US$1.3 million.

On top of this, Asia's most prestigious national open has been squeezed out of the European Tour's 2013 end-of-year schedule and lost its prime spot as the penultimate leg in the tour's money-list Race To Dubai. This was due to the European Tour, which co-sanctions the Hong Kong Open along with the Asian Tour, replacing it with the new US$7 million Turkish Open.