MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Tennis Australia (TA) expects to exhaust most of its A$80 million ($59.01 million) reserves to maintain funding to the sport as it deals with significant costs in staging the Australian Open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
TA boss Craig Tiley said the governing body would likely spend more than A$40 million on quarantine and biosecurity operations for the year’s first Grand Slam, which is also expected to be delayed from its Jan. 18-31 schedule.
“We also expect that we will use the majority of our reserves in maintaining funding to the sport and playing group,” Tiley said in comments published by The Australian newspaper.
“As a result of these costs we are exploring options for a line of credit and/or a loan which will allow us to maintain cash flow at critical times and support us in the recovery from the impacts of the pandemic once access to government subsidies have ended.
“We believe that recovery from the pandemic will take up to five years.”
The biosecurity arrangements will involve additional costs in accommodating players and their entourages during Australia’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for international arrivals.
The protocols are also expected to limit crowd sizes at Melbourne Park to as little as 25% capacity through the two-week Australian Open.
About 800,000 people attended the tournament in January.
TA have consulted with government authorities for months over the COVID-19 protocols.
Prominent tennis coach Dani Vallverdu told Reuters that players would skip the Grand Slam if unable to practise during quarantine due to injury fears.
French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Wednesday that the Australian Open could be pushed back to a Feb. 8-21 window and players would be allowed out of quarantine to train for up to five hours a day.
TA said on Wednesday it expected to finalise the details of the protocols “very soon”.
Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has not recorded a new case of COVID-19 in over a month after a nearly four-month hard lockdown to combat a second wave of infections.
($1 = 1.3557 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)