The Australian Open has "announced the single biggest prize-money jump in its history, with a record pool of A$30M ($30.8M) -- up A$4M from this year -- on offer at next year's event," according to Linda Pearce of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The move is designed to "avoid the mooted strike from the world's best men agitating for a greater share of tournament revenue," but organizers remain resolute in refusing to offer a fixed percentage share of the Grand Slam's income. Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood said the "breakdown of the prize money would be released after consultation with the players." However, a "redistribution to give a higher percentage to those who lose in the early and qualifying rounds is guaranteed," bringing the Open into line with the other slams (SMH, 10/3). Also in Sydney, Courtney Walsh wrote that Tournament Dir Craig Tiley met with the players' council, headed by world No. 1 Roger Federer. Tiley and other Australian officials "will head to Shanghai this weekend for further talks with Federer and the ATP to iron out how the additional prize money will be distributed." Although Federer's view is that it be shared among the lower-ranked players -- those beaten in the first-round of qualifying this year made about A$3,000 in the four slams, "hardly enough to cover a trip to Melbourne from the northern hemisphere" -- it is understood some highly ranked players "may not be as devoted to that ideology." Wood stressed it would be local officials that made the final call. Wood said, "We make the final call on how we distribute our prize money. We're looking for some input on that" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/3).
AUSTRALIAN RICHES: REUTERS' Ian Ransom wrote that the year's first Grand Slam is "the richest event in Australia's sporting calendar, with revenues used to subsidise the game's development across the country." But critics said the tournament's riches has "failed to produce enough world class players Down Under," particularly in the men's game, with 31-year-old double Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt the last Australian male to win a major at Wimbledon in '02. Wood said officials had already budgeted for a significant increase, but would have to do a "little bit of juggling" to allow for it. Wood said, "The early signs, which gives us great confidence, is that we're ahead of where we were in some of those (revenue-generating) areas over last year. So we're feeling like as a risk to our business, it can be manageable." One area that might help finance it is a A$5 "hike in general admission ground passes" to A$34, which thousands of tournament-goers buy to pack out Melbourne Park's minor courts and outdoor areas in the first week (REUTERS, 10/2). In Melbourne, Bruce Matthews noted most of the extra prize money "will be distributed in the first week of the 14-day championship, particularly to the losers in the first three rounds of men's and women's singles.” There also will be “an allocation for the pre-tournament qualifying events" (HERALDSUN.com.au, 10/4).
AMONG THE BEST: BLOOMBERG's Dex McLuskey reported that the Australian Open's $31.1M fund compares with $25.5M at the U.S. Open, $26M at Wimbledon and $24.1M at the French Open this year. The ATP said in a statement: "We welcome the increase in prize money for the 2013 Australian Open and acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Tennis Australia to recognize the role of the players in the success of the tournament. We also look forward with confidence to continuing these successful discussions with a view to a longer-term understanding" (BLOOMBERG, 10/1). The AP reported Tiley said that he had been in contact with Rafael Nadal, who indicated he was "still targeting the Australian Open for his return to Grand Slam tennis from a left knee injury that has sidelined him since Wimbledon." Tiley said in a statement, "Expect Rafa to be one of many great stories in January" (AP, 10/2).
South Africa has secured the hosting rights for golf's new, $8.5M Tournament of Hope for 10 years, according to Jason Humphries of REUTERS. The event, announced in February and sanctioned by the world's leading tours, will have a prize fund “second only to the Players Championship,” which offers $9.5M. The tournament will be held Nov. 21-24, 2013, a week earlier than originally planned on a course to be determined (REUTERS, 10/2). The new tournament will be co-sanctioned by South Africa’s Sunshine Tour and prize money will also count on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai money list. South Africa’s tour had initially said the event would be the world’s richest, with prize money of $10M on offer, but it will now offer the same purse as the three U.S.-based WGC events: the Accenture Matchplay, the Cadillac Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational (PGA).
European Club Rugby CEO Derek McGrath said he hopes the issues surrounding the future of the Heineken Cup will be resolved "within six to nine months," according to the BBC. English and French clubs have announced their intention to pull out from '14, while a row over English TV rights "has further inflamed the situation." More talks will take place on Monday and McGrath said: "What we recognise is that there's a lot of ambition to make these tournaments better." The current agreement governing the Heineken Cup, and second-tier Challenge Cup, expires in '14. McGrath said the row was a result of ambition to improve the competition being expressed in "negative terms" (BBC, 10/1).
Former players Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane are among the players who will take the field in the 10th UEFA-backed Match Against Poverty on Dec. 19 at the Gremio Arena in Porto Alegre, Brazil. As goodwill ambassadors for the United Nations Development Program, Ronaldo and Zidane will each captain a team for the friendly match aimed at mobilizing the public in the fight against poverty. Ronaldo, who launched the Match Against Poverty with Zinédine Zidane and UNDP 10 years ago, said, "The struggle against poverty is not a game. But we use this match to raise both funds and awareness that the solution is in everyone's hands. We will use the proceeds to support solutions in my own country, as well as another program in Africa in which Brazil is actively engaged." UEFA Chief Refereeing Officer Pierluigi Collina, who has refereed eight out of the nine editions to date, will again be in charge this year. Collina said, "As football is the world's most popular sport and poverty is a global challenge, the match is a wonderful instrument to mobilise people around the world to support all efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can lead healthy, productive and rewarding lives." Ronaldo and Zidane are part of an elite group of UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, which includes other football stars Didier Drogba, Iker Casillas and Marta (UEFA).
Following a "hugely popular debut" at the London Games, women's boxing has been included in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Int'l Boxing Association President Ching-Kuo Wu said, "This inclusion demonstrates the continued growth in popularity of women's boxing that I wish to continue promoting even further" (REUTERS, 10/2). ... Dorna Sports and Infront Sports & Media have reached an agreement to bring both their motorcycle racing interests under a single umbrella organization. Dorna is the organizer of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, while Infront organizes the eni FIM Superbike World Championship through its subsidiary, Infront Motor Sports. MotoGP and WorldSBK will be integrated within the Dorna Sports group but managed as separate events with a view to enhancing the two distinct championships (Infront).
READY FOR RACING: Thailand Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa said that he was confident the country would host its first F1 race in '14, with talks "already at an advanced stage." Silpa-archa said, "It's unlikely we'll have any problem." He said that the country was still "looking for a suitable venue as an existing track in the seaside resort of Pattaya," about an hour's drive from the capital Bangkok, is "not perfect" (AFP, 10/2). ... The first leg of the FINA/ARENA World Cup 2012 will take place in Dubai and feature 130 swimmers from 32 nations. The 25m series will stop in eight locations this year: UAE, Doha, Stockholm, Moscow, Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore (FINA). ... Refugio Aboim Ascensão and the Portuguese Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Handicapped Persons will be the two official charities of the 2012 Portugal Masters to be played at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura, from Nov. 15-18. The European Tour Players Foundation will focus on various initiatives during the week to support the two charitable bodie. All proceeds from this initiative will be shared equally between Refugio Aboim Ascensão and the APPACDM (European Tour).