HK$9 million Mega Events Fund boost for Hong Kong Tennis Open, but golf and cricket still sweating

Tennis chiefs will hope HK$2 million increase in funding can help attract star names to October event

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 May, 2016, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 May, 2016, 8:49pm

This year’s Hong Kong Tennis Open should see an upgrade in star power after receiving a HK$2 million boost in government support – but fans of cricket and golf are still facing an anxious wait to see if their local flagship events will be funded.

The government’s Mega Events Fund awarded HK$9 million to tennis yesterday, an increase on last year’s HK$7 million, and HK$6 million to the Dragon Boat Carnival.

Two more events – understood to be the Hong Kong Golf Open and the Cricket Sixes – are still being assessed by the fund’s committee.

The golf tournament received HK$15 million from the fund last year, which helped attract one of the best fields the event had seen for years, including winner Justin Rose.

And cricket chiefs have been trying to convince civil servants that their popular Sixes tournament, which has not been held since 2012 after losing government support, deserves a reprieve.

“[We are] discussing the relevant funding terms and conditions with the organisers of two other mega events,” said a government spokesman in a statement from the MEF assessment committee.

“We will grant funding if consensus is reached and announce the details.”

It is understood that officials at the Golf Association are confident their application should be accepted once some details have been ironed out.

And cricket chiefs were hoping to hear from the MEF later this week to find out if they had been successful.

The HKCA hopes a revamped Sixes format including women cricketers and mainland teams will work in its favour with the committee.

“The Sixes is something nobody else has and to get it up and running is critical for Hong Kong and for what it can do for emerging nations,” HKCA chief executive Tim Cutler said before applying for the funding earlier this year.

“We’d like for us to be able to stand up on our own two feet and make it commercially viable to help grow cricket in emerging nations like China, the US and Brazil.”

Officials at the Hong Kong Tennis Association can rest easy though, and now the planning for this year’s event can get underway in earnest.

The HK$7 million MEF cash for the 2015 tournament helped organisers attract big names such as Venus Williams, Samantha Stosur and winner Jelena Jankovic. MEF cash cannot be used for prize money, but only ‘promotion and marketing’ – including landing high-profile players to attract fans.

The tournament will be staged at Victoria Park from October 8 to 16 this year, and organisers will be hoping for the strongest field ever in its third staging. Last year Victoria Azarenka, Eugenie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza were lined up only to withdraw through injury, with the tournament coming at the end of the WTA season.

Organisers have high hopes for the fledgling event, wanting to make it one of the leading tennis tournaments in Asia.

The MEF was set up in 2009 and extended for another five years in 2012-13 with an additional HK$150 million. It now awards funding in two categories, Tier 1 “to attract internationally acclaimed mega events to Hong Kong” and Tier 2 “to provide funding support to local non-profit-making organisations to host mega arts, culture, sports and entertainment events in Hong Kong.” Dragon boat, tennis, golf and cricket all applied under Tier 2.