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Volume 6 No. 235

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker "was appointed on Wednesday as head of men's tennis in his home country" as the German Tennis Federation (DTB) "looks to revive the once hugely popular sport," according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. In his new capacity, Becker will also be consulting Davis Cup players as well as all top German players, "as the former powerhouse looks to reduce the gap with strong tennis nations." Becker was a Davis Cup coach for Germany from '97-99 "but had an uneasy relationship" with the DTB. He said, "Tennis is a matter of the heart for me. It is what I can do best. ... I love this sport. I love this country and I am happy again to play an important role in German tennis." No German man has won a grand slam singles title since Becker's 1996 Australian Open victory, and the last German man to win Wimbledon was Michael Stich in '91. Becker had a "successful spell" coaching former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic from '13-16, a period in which the Serb won six of his 12 grand slam titles (REUTERS, 8/23).

The five National Rugby League clubs based at ANZ Stadium will reportedly "hold a potentially historic meeting on Friday to discuss drastically slashing the costs of attending rugby league games," according to Dean Ritchie of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Family tickets for A$49 ($39), reduced food and beverage prices and discounted parking at the Sydney Olympic Park venue will "appease supporters" who say that they cannot afford to attend matches due to financial constraints. The five ANZ Stadium tenants "united to lobby the NRL to fix scheduling and Sydney’s alarming drop in crowds." South Sydney, Wests Tigers, Canterbury, St. George Illawarra and Parramatta will meet with NRL officials and ANZ Stadium management again on Friday to "try and set a cheap, fixed entry price for all matches next season." Currently, a family pass for four people to attend games at ANZ Stadium "can cost between" A$70 ($55) and A$100 ($79). Some clubs charge A$40 ($32) to "sit on a hill at antiquated suburban grounds." Sydney is currently "experiencing its lowest regular-season crowds" since '02. A survey of 9,000 people revealed 22% of supporters will not attend matches "because of high ticket prices," and 14% said that the "high price of food and drinks kept them away." South Sydney CEO Blake Solly said, "We know there is an issue about making tickets more affordable. Different clubs will price different levels in different areas. We want to agree to a joint pricing offer but more importantly it can be consistent right through the season so people have an understanding of what they are getting" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 8/23).

DOUBLING UP?: In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko reported the NRL and its clubs are seeking to stage doubleheaders in Sydney from next season "as part of the solution to the game's crowds crisis." The average NRL crowd has fallen to 14,827 this season, the "first time the average figure has dropped below 15,000" since '04. The introduction of "family unfriendly fixtures," such as the Thursday night and 6pm Friday games, has had an effect, "although a range of other factors have also contributed." It is "hoped" an injection of at least A$1.6B ($1.3B) into stadium infrastructure will "help reverse the trend," although the NRL and clubs acknowledge they "need to be more proactive to lure television viewers through the turnstiles." One initiative being discussed is the staging of doubleheaders in Sydney. The concept has been "used sparingly" in the city. It has "proven a success when staged annually in Brisbane" when the Broncos are one of the sides participating in a doubleheader at Suncorp Stadium. The NRL "floated the idea" to Sydney club execs, who believe that it "warrants further investigation." An NRL spokesperson said, "We're in discussions with clubs around the prospect of a doubleheader in Sydney as part of the planning for the 2018 schedule." ANZ Stadium has been "mooted as the venue most likely to host" the doubleheaders. The Parramatta Eels, who call ANZ home while the new Western Sydney Stadium is being built, are "open to the concept." Parramatta CEO Bernie Gurr said, "On a selective basis, doubleheaders do have some merit" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/23). 

Formula 1 is "looking to add more Asian street races to its calendar in the near future," F1 Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches said, according to Pablo Elizalde of MOTORSPORT. Singapore currently hosts the only street race in Asia, having joined the calendar in '08, and "it has proved popular with both fans and teams." Bratches said that F1 is "keen" on introducing more street races in "iconic cities" to increase the sport's fanbase. Bratches, however, did not specify "which cities they were looking at." He said, "I'm spending a lot of time reaching out proactively to cities ... and think ultimately we will realize more street races than we have seen historically. We will go to iconic cities where there are large fan bases, particularly new fanbases that we can activate." He also said that, "despite doubts about its future, China was set to secure another contract to continue hosting a grand prix." Bratches added, "We've been working hard with Juss Event, the promoter, and we've got an agreement in principle. My suspicion is that it will be executed by the end of next month, fully executed" (MOTORSPORT, 8/23). The AFP's Peter Stebbings reported Bratches said, "From a fan standpoint, the backdrops of these city centers ... can really make compelling television and pictures." Asked if that meant more street circuits in Asia, he said, "Yes, two." In the last five years, the Indian and Korean grands prix have "fallen off the race calendar," while Malaysia has announced that this year's race will be the last "due to rising costs and low returns" (AFP, 8/22).