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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 656

Mr IRONS (12:40 PM) —Every January or December since 1988 in my electorate of Swan the Burswood Dome has hosted the Hopman Cup international tennis tournament. The cup is Western Australia’s premier tennis event and serves as an important warm-up fixture prior to the Australian Open. I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of matches this year and I acknowledge the great work done by the tournament staff. I met with Paul McNamee and had a very informative discussion with him. I know that the work done by Annette Livesay is second to none, and her expertise in the event organisation is well known in Perth. The support of all the sponsors, including Eventscorp, is vital for the continuation of this unique event.

The tournament has a unique format of being a knockout mixed doubles event over the best of three rubbers. Over time, this enterprising innovation has been rewarded with the participation of 21 of the No. 1 world players. Roger Federer and Martina Hingis, two legends of the game, won the 2000 tournament for Switzerland.

Most members in this room would have at some point watched the competition on TV, courtesy of the first-class and very professional coverage provided by the ABC national broadcaster. Unfortunately, it has recently come to my attention that the ABC is considering ending its coverage of the tournament when its contract expires this year. I fear this would mark the beginning of the end for the Hopman Cup. Fifteen years of ABC coverage has helped ensure strong national and international exposure and a focus on Perth.

Exposure is important in a number of respects. Firstly, good exposure can help attract a good attendance. The people of my electorate have been strong supporters of this tournament over the years. This year, attendance at the dome was 72,171—an increase on last year’s figure. Secondly, good exposure is a component in attracting the highest-quality players. The 21 No. 1 world players hosted since 1988 is a testament to that. Thirdly, good exposure leads to international legitimacy. Each successful year helps the event to cement its position on the international tennis calendar.

However, potentially the most destructive result of reducing exposure would be the possible variation and/or renegotiation of sponsorship contracts. Contracts with the Hopman Cup require a minimum of 25 hours of free-to-air television coverage to be valid. Currently, the ABC broadcasts 42 hours. If ABC coverage ended, contracts would have to be varied and the lack of exposure to a national audience would surely mean a dramatic fall in sponsorship for the Hopman Cup. A decline in sponsorship revenue would reduce the ability of the tournament to attract the best players.

The ABC pulling out of the cup would be disastrous for WA tennis. It would likely see further centralisation of international tennis on the east coast. This must not be allowed to happen. I understand the key motivation for the ABC to concentrate more on women’s and regional sport. I point out that the feedback I have received from regional Australia about the Hopman Cup coverage has been extremely positive. People as far away as Far North Queensland have commented on how much they enjoy the broadcast.

It is interesting to note also that the ABC threatened to withdraw its coverage of the Women’s National Basketball League last year, but a furore from the community erupted and it changed its mind. Hopefully, this will happen with the Hopman Cup as well. It is also important to remember that tennis is one of the biggest women’s participation sports in Australia and that half the competitors at the Hopman Cup are women.

I have written to the ABC director of sport asking the ABC to consider its review of the contract for next season. If anything, the ABC should perhaps be considering extending its coverage to the legendary night sessions. A comment on the ABC websites states:

My husband and I look forward to this each year and am disappointed that ABC Free to Air do not have the complete coverage. We will miss tonights match and every night as we do not have pay tv and cannot afford. Please ABC free to air, can you please get the night matches as well.

Perth is a fantastic city that deserves to host important events. The Hopman Cup organisers deal with the players, coaches, officials, VIPs, the army of volunteers and other staff with consummate professionalism. I hope the ABC will recognise that, acknowledge the local and international support for the cup and continue to provide its fantastic coverage in the years to come. The local community supports this event through all the children who are ball boys and ball girls who come from the various tennis clubs all around the district of Perth to support the Hopman Cup. So I will fight and continue to fight to save this important event in my electorate of Swan.