By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is looking for a new host city for this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals following the end of its agreement with Budapest.
A source within the ITF confirmed to Reuters that the revamped 12-country women’s team competition, formerly known as the Fed Cup, would no longer take place at the Laszlo Papp Arena, having been postponed twice due to COVID-19.
ITF president Dave Haggerty confirmed the decision on Tuesday.
We have worked closely with the Hungarian Government and the Hungarian Tennis Association (HTA) to review all viable options to reschedule this year’s final, said Haggerty, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
After working together in good faith over the past year, we were surprised and disappointed to learn that the HTA no longer considers it possible to hold the event in Budapest.
Given the timing, the ITF has no choice but to terminate the hosting agreement with Hungary and explore an alternative solution.
The ITF received a letter from the Hungarian Tennis Association (HTA) on April 22 stating that it was no longer feasible to host the final, citing security reasons.
The Fed Cup, sponsored by BNP Paribas, was revamped in 2019, with Budapest winning the right to host the final, but last April’s first edition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was rescheduled for last month but was postponed again for health reasons. No new date had been agreed.
The ITF is determined that the match continues, saying they had little choice but to terminate the Budapest agreement and seek a new host.
Several other cities had bid together with Budapest in the initial process and could be alternatives, but it will be a huge challenge to organize such a complex event in the short term.
The ITF will do everything it can for the sport, the players, the countries and the fans to ensure that this milestone in tennis and women’s sports is met as soon as possible, Haggerty said.
In the HTA letter, seen by Reuters, they said the emergence of new COVID-19 variants meant they could not safely host the week-long event with 60 athletes plus coaches and support staff.
The letter also stated that the original contract signed in 2019 needed to be carefully scrutinized so that the competition funded by Hungarian taxpayers could be closed with minimal losses.
France, Russia, Hungary, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, the United States, Spain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland have qualified for the final.
Budapest was announced as the host in 2019 when the Fed Cup was converted into a World Cup or tennis format, culminating in 12 countries competing for the title for over a week.
The total prize pool is comparable to the men’s Davis Cup with a pot of $ 18 million in which $ 12 million goes to the players and $ 6 million to the national federations.
It was renamed the Billie Jean King Cup last year in honor of the 12-time US Grand Slam champion and women’s tennis pioneer who was part of the winning team at the inaugural Fed Cup in London in 1963.
(Report by Martyn Herman; edited by Christian Radnedge)
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