Australian Open golf loses major sponsor - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Australian Open golf loses major sponsor

By Robert Grant 25/03/2008 04:17:41 PM Comments (0)

The prestige of the Australian Open has been shaken by its second blow in as many weeks with the loss of naming rights sponsor MFS.

The troubled investment company, main backer of both the Australian men's and women's opens, has been in financial crisis for the past few months, a victim of the global credit crunch.

Its departure comes just a week after Golf Australia's key tournament promoter, Paul McNamee, quit.

McNamee, who had been responsible for re-invigorating the opens over the past two years, has left to take up a post as CEO of Melbourne Football Club.

MFS is the second major company to sever its ties with golf in Australia in the past year.

The Australian Masters, one of just three main tournaments remaining in the country, last year lost naming rights sponsor Mastercard, which switched its backing to the Australian Open tennis championships.

This leaves the Masters and the Open competing for support in a financial landscape which has been decimated by the collapse of overseas housing and share markets.

However, Golf Australia chief executive Tony Hallam was confident that the tournaments would attract support.

"We've come a long way in the past two years and both opens are in really good shape," Hallam said.

"We've had two really good men's opens at Royal Sydney and the Australian and we're in Sydney for the next couple of years with a lot of strong support from the New South Wales Government.

"And the women's really stepped up and showed what it can be at Kingston Heath so we're confident of the future ahead.

"All we can do in these situations is put forward what we think is a very good value proposition for sponsors, whether for the men's open or the women's open, having them placed in the two major markets in the country and on national TV.

"We're really thrilled to have that as a package to take into the marketplace," Hallam said.

"It's always challenging but we're very pleased with the position we're in and we move forward.

"You're always confident, particularly with the work we've done in the last couple of years."

Hallam said McNamee's position was being "reviewed" at the moment but said he had played a major part in the new approach to the major tournaments.

"One of the things that Paul's left as a legacy is he's been at the heart of reinvigorating the men's (tournament) with some of his ideas and innovations and also getting the women's back up and running.

"He leaves behind a very strong team who can carry that forward," Hallam said.

"Golf Australia is committed to staging our national championships and we will be announcing dates and venues for the 2008 men's and 2009 women's Australian Opens in the coming weeks," he said.

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