The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 32

Re-imagining a global sporting spectacular during a pandemic.

​Craig Tiley
CEO
Tennis Australia​​

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The Four Major global tennis tournaments, known as the Grand Slam of Tennis, attract the best players in the world. With them comes millions of viewers, and millions of dollars in prize money.
 
In years past, the Australian Open’s place in the Grand Slam pecking order was towards the lower end. But not any more. Operated by Tennis Australia, the Australian Open is more than just a Grand Slam tournament. It is now a two week cultural event on the Australia calendar that attracts over 800,000 attendees. The event beams into 900 million homes and employees thousands of people.
 
The Australian Open is a big business, but it has not been immune to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like all businesses they are finding their way in the new world, which is a challenge. In doing so, they are focusing on three themes for the 2021 event…Recovery, Re-Open and Re-Imagine.
 
Chris recently sat down with Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley, to talk about his plans for this year’s Open.
 
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Listen to the episode

Chris Lukianenko:

The modern game of tennis dates back to England in the 1870s, but it has direct ties to an 11th-century French game called jeu de paume where players use their hands to hit a ball. Fast forward to the 21st century, and the game of tennis is played by millions of people worldwide and is a big business. The four major global tennis tournaments, known as the Grand Slam of tennis, attract the best players in the world and millions of viewers, while also paying out millions of dollars in prize money. There is Wimbledon, the French, and US Open, and the topic of today’s discussion, the Australian Open. Operated by Tennis Australia, the Australian Open is more than a collection of tennis matches, it’s a three-week cultural event on the Australian calendar that attracts over 800,000 attendees, and is beamed into 900 million homes, employing thousands of people. Yes, the Australian Open is a big business and yes, it has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but like all businesses, they’re slowly finding their way in the new world. They are focusing on three themes for the 2021 event, recovery, reopen, and reimagine. And to talk more about it, welcome to The Intelligent Workplace, CEO, Craig Tiley.

Craig Tiley:

Hi. Good to be here, and to share some thoughts about the Australian Open and how things have also changed over the past few months.

Chris Lukianenko:

Thanks for joining me today. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the Australian Open, not only as a business, but also I was once a promising young junior tennis player. So, this will be good. Well, I wasn’t really, but I did enjoy a game of tennis when I was younger, so looking forward to hearing your thoughts today, mate.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah. That’s one thing that’s great about our game. It’s like an international language. You can play it anywhere around the world and you don’t have to speak the same language, but the sport of tennis is the same language because everyone understands it.

Chris Lukianenko:

The original Australian tennis championship dates back to the early 1900s, but the sort of the modern era of the Australian Open began as a permanent fixture in Melbourne in the 1970s and then found a more permanent home at 1988 at the larger venue of Melbourne Park, pretty important milestones for the event. But it’s maybe the last 10 or 15 years perhaps, where the event is truly coming to its own on a more global stage. What have been the driving factors behind that rapid growth?

Craig Tiley:

Back in 2006, we had a very clear strategy of the event and it started with positioning the event, first of all, as a global event. It always was considered the fourth cousin of the four majors Slams [inaudible 00:03:28] Wimbledon, and the US Open, and the French Open. But now, in the visitation, in the revenue, the turnover, we’re no longer the fourth cousin, we’re the first cousin. So, it’s definitely evolved. But the first point of the strategy is make it global, coin the phrase Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific region. So, we said to the Asia-Pac region, we are your Grand Slam, we’re in your time zone. So, take the perceptual ownership of it. That was the first strategy.

Craig Tiley:

The second was to actively seek global partners, both in media and in marketing partnerships, and the third, which is a strategy, I became the CEO end of ’13, so from 2014 was the first event. The strategy from there is be the masters of your own destiny. So, previously up to that point, we had really outsourced many of our services in sales, and media sales, and marketing partnerships. We’ve brought everything in-house and even most recently, we’ve brought merchandise and retail in-house. So, we’ve built in-house capability, even to the point where we bought back our production rights from Channel 7 at the time, to-

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh, wow.

Craig Tiley:

… where we produce end to end all of our own content. So, any tennis thing you see coming out of Australia, the Australian Open is ours. We’ve produced that internally. And then we allow free-to-air partners like 9Now and others to distribute it, and for a fee. So, the business model’s completely shifted, but those were purposeful strategic positions that we had. And then, probably the final one was making a decision back in 2013 that we’re no longer a tennis event, we’re a sports and entertainment event.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yes.

Craig Tiley:

And we are going to now add other streams of interest in, around food, around music, kids, and family, and more recently around tech, and innovation. That’s been a strategy by design and we’ve reaped some great benefits from it.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to attend the event on a number of occasions. It is truly spectacular, but for those who haven’t been, can you give a bit of an overview of just how huge it is because it’s not just about the on-court action, as you sort of alluded to then.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah, well, it would be like if you imagine if you’ve been to a music festival, and you’ve been to a food festival, and a cultural festival, and a sports event, and put them all into one day.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yes.

Craig Tiley:

On one site, and that’s what your experience will be. You can actually, for under $50, you can come on site and you can enter in the gates at 10:00 AM and you can stay there till 12 midnight. You can have lunch. You can have dinner. And if you want, you’re going to have dinner at Nobu, or you can have dinner at Rockpool. We’ve got the best restaurants in Australia catering to our patrons, and then you can go and watch sport, or you can go out to the bars and watch it on TV, or you can just go and hang out in the grounds. You can go to a music concert. You can bring your kids and they can go and play in a Disney Theme Park. So, it’s a two and a half kilometer site all the way from the train station, Flinders Street Station, all the way down to Richmond Street Station. And it’s an elongated site following the river all the way down. A beautiful sports venue. But it’s more about entertainment and it actually extended from two weeks to three weeks. It’s now a three-week bonanza of entertainment with sport at the core and tennis at the core.

Chris Lukianenko:

It is truly spectacular and some of the best corporate entertainment that I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s just absolutely magnificent. To put on a three-week event of that size, it’s huge. What sort of size team are we talking about here in terms who is there behind the scenes?

Craig Tiley:

Well, that’s also grown, and initially during this period, we’re looking at how we can do things even more effectively and efficiently. Tennis Australia is a not-for-profit organization where it’s a very successful in its turnover and its profit, but any profits that are generated from the event or any of the sources of the business are then reinvested back into growing the sport and the event. So, our finances and our books are public. It’s close to half a billion-dollar turnover and to put on the events is an expensive exercise. We have our staff, we have 650 full-time staff, but their responsibility is not just the event. We run over 300 other events during the year. We’re also a production company. And so, we do other forms of production as well.

Craig Tiley:

And then, we’re also responsible for growing the sport in Australia. So, it’s not just the event staff, but about half of that, 300 that are focused on the event, primarily. And then we employ another 12,000 people in December and January.

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh, wow. That’s massive.

Craig Tiley:

It’s a big casual workforce, and you got to be equipped to manage that casual workforce. But we have close to a 90% return rate of all of our staff because I think those that work the Open and the different functions love working. So, it’s not that difficult to train because you have most of them have been through training and experiences before. I gave an award this year to someone who had worked the Australian Open for 47 years.

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh, wow. Oh, that’s fantastic. So, you talked before about everything is in-house, but surely you’ve got to rely on some business partners during these peak time to help you get through it because adding 12,000 people into the mix is massive.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah, absolutely. I think our functions are all in-house, but our partnerships with other businesses, we have 83 sponsors or partners, and then a whole series of other suppliers, and we want it to always be a benefit for both. And I think, and sometimes, you’ve mentioning it here, but I think sometimes there’s a lack of understanding of really the scope and the size of the event. I mean, this year there were a billion people that watched the Australia Open globally. It was the most-watched sporting event of the year in many countries. It completely dominates in the Southern Hemisphere and it brings over $350 million of direct cash, economic impact to the Melbourne economy, to the Victorian economy.

Chris Lukianenko:

Wow.

Craig Tiley:

So, that’s a big return for them.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yeah.

Craig Tiley:

And we also hire people. We create jobs. And also, it does, from a branding point of view, it provides Australia with a platform globally to be in everyone’s home and in their lounge rooms. And this year was a good example of that because, with the bushfires, visitation in our local communities absolutely dropped off a precipice because of bushfires. And then, there was great concern on international visitation. So, we use the Australia Open in promoting Australia as open for business and you saw that on our branding. And then we’ve heard in the last week of the event it became not the Australian Open for tennis, but the open promotional piece for Australia. So, so it did remind us of the significance of the event has, not only in the community in Victoria and Melbourne, but also in Australia.

Chris Lukianenko:

It really does have a far reach. You mentioned there are 1 billion TV viewers. How does that compare to the other three majors?

Craig Tiley:

It’s interesting because we don’t have the same brand recognition like Wimbledon had or Wimbledon particularly, but pretty much in most markets now and, particularly in Asia, it outrates those. And Wimbledon’s always the close one to compete with. It’s harder in the UK or the US Open would beat us in the US, but the Australian Open at that time of the year, the only competition we have is a week later is the Superbowl finals.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yes, yip.

Craig Tiley:

But outside of that, we don’t have much competition in January for eyeballs, and that’s why it’s successful. But our numbers in Asia, particularly, are higher, and it’s in China, Korea, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia, primarily.

Chris Lukianenko:

And obviously, look, technology has enabled the TV signal to go far and wide these days. How has technology changed the Open over the year?

Craig Tiley:

Well, I’m really interested… People that are listeners to this podcast probably most will be in technology, are going to be… They’re going to be the smart ones, but for us, it’s evolved tremendously. And we want to, now particularly, during the last two months evolve even further, and in fact, we’ve taken a strategic position that from a participation point of view getting people playing the game, our only interest is going to be doing it through digital interface and a massive digital focus. So, from a playing point of view, technology has changed where now you can, and we’re rolling this out more, is you can book a court through your mobile device. You can book a court online anywhere, anytime, pay on the phone, and find a partner on the phone, and that’s called our Book a Court.

Chris Lukianenko:

That’s great.

Craig Tiley:

And that’s rolling out more and more every day, and more and more clubs are signing up to it because you have to have technology at the club that allows you to get into the facility by using a barcode on your app.

Chris Lukianenko:

Ah, yes.

Craig Tiley:

But so from playing, and now from the event experience, certainly in the aggregation of data and the analysis of our customer segments, without that data, we wouldn’t know. So you wouldn’t know what ticket price to charge or how you do dynamic pricing in your stadium. And you wouldn’t know that, but now you know that. And then the next thing for us is completely ticketless entry and a completely paperless experience. And that’s coming in. That’s on our immediate priority.

Chris Lukianenko:

The rise of on-demand media via the internet. Have you really felt like you’ve captured that and done a great job with that? Because that seems to be really on the rise, doesn’t it?

Craig Tiley:

Well, it does, it’s so fragmented now. You had free-to-air.

Chris Lukianenko:

Exactly, yeah.

Craig Tiley:

And then you paid for cable.

Chris Lukianenko:

Nothing else.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah, exactly. Now you’re paying for a cable box and you have a monthly fee to pay for cable, but you know what, if you follow enough social media, and you get on YouTube, and you’ve got a phone, and you pay for your connectivity, you can pretty much see any content. What is different in sport, you cannot see live content on platforms just randomly.

Chris Lukianenko:

Ah, that’s it, yeah.

Craig Tiley:

And so where sport has a huge upper hand to most content is that it’s live, in the first instance, and then it’s recordable following that. So, there’s a lot of value in having it live. But with the fragmentation of media, particularly, we’ve had to be in front of it because where you get the traditional set and forget fees from free-to-air from cable, and then they have the exclusive rights to your live content.

Craig Tiley:

We’ve also got to consider how it’s been disrupted by all the other platforms. So how do you monetize that and take advantage of that? So we’re in deep conversations with Amazon, and Facebook, and YouTube, and TikTok, and all these-

Chris Lukianenko:

TikTok.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Lukianenko:

Really?

Craig Tiley:

All these platforms because they’re all opportunities for us. And it’s the question we work on is how do you monetize it? And then also, how do you, from a digital point of view, we’ve got a great partner in the Nine Network and we’re in our second year now, and they’ve been magnificent because they’re very creative in how they want to distribute that content and recreate the content and expand it because for them it’s money, too.

Chris Lukianenko:

So how do you slice and dice it? Is it like, I’ve got my free-to-air contract, I’ve got my… I cover screens of phone sizes, can that be another contract? And then the streaming service, it goes through to a television. There’s so many different ways you could slice and dice this, isn’t there?

Craig Tiley:

There is, and there’s opportunities in all of those. You can do a one-stop deal where you go to a distributor or a free-to-air like in Nine, and you can give up all your digital rights, and all those rights, and you can let them use it on their platforms, or you can do what we’ve done is go where the best options are. Because even on some of these digital platforms, your mobile devices in China, what ours can distribute may not be as big as what some of their local… Locally they can distribute.

Craig Tiley:

So, you got to look at each market separately, and you got to look at each one separately and is there a way to provide certain kinds of content, to do all different competitive platforms, and that fragmentation is what we’re looking at, and we’ve been engaged in for a couple of years now. And we’ll start to benefit from it because you may be in Europe or you may be in, let’s say, in the Middle East and you’re watching the Australian Open on an Amazon platform, and then you can go to Europe, and you’re in the UK and then you’re watching it on a free-to-air BBC platform. Or you go to France and you may watch it then on a cable Orange platform. And so, we’ll go to each of those platforms and we’ll go and compete for a price that they’ll pay for our content. And so, we don’t have one global position, every single market based on where we think it’s going to be best distributed, and so exposes our brand the best, and where we’re going to get the best return.

Chris Lukianenko:

It’s amazing to think that probably only 30, 35 years ago, that the Open was probably shown on a tape delay. Now we’ve got it, all these instant options. It’s just unbelievable. Leads me to a question around innovation. What does innovation look like for the Australian Open these days? Is it something that you really focus on?

Craig Tiley:

Absolutely. And I hope our patrons that come to the Australian Open experience some of that innovation, but there has to be innovation in the experiential elements of the Open. So, when you come in, we’re going to personalize your experience, and our first strategy has been we’ll do everything, and then at least you’re going to get something in there that you like. And now, through the use of technology, we’re beginning to learn more about what you like, [crosstalk 00:17:59]

Chris Lukianenko:

Yes.

Craig Tiley:

And one of the things we’re considering, and we’ll talk about that in a sec, coming out of COVID-19 is providing our patrons with different times of entry, so they can manage their health, and their comfort, and their safety on being a 100% secure and confident that the priority we’re taking care of everyone’s health. But that’s a separate conversation.

Craig Tiley:

But no, from an innovation point of view, we have an innovation team. It’s kind of our skunkworks team, which we stick out in the West Coast of Australia. And they have partnerships with key universities across the country. And we have some doctoral students doing their thesis around some elements that help us. We’re about to launch our first venture capital fund. We’re also in partnership with Techstars and Vic Uni on an incubator in the company. And we have about, I think it’s 13 startups that we’re doing mentoring with and investing in, and some of them are related to sport and the distribution of sport, and others related to other elements. But, these are things that promote a culture of innovation and creativity in the business. I lead in a way where I do ask for a lot of forgiveness before permission, but it’s because we do believe in pushing it and going for it. Like the last two months, I think it’s a magnificent opportunity for us to come out of it in better shape, with more focus on bigger returns, and doing some different things and more diversification.

Craig Tiley:

And, actually, I think we’re the only sporting organization, we haven’t laid anyone off. We’ve kept the company as a whole.

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh, wow. That’s fantastic.

Craig Tiley:

And we’re trying to pivot the company now to some different directions that are going to be great benefit for the longterm.

Chris Lukianenko:

It’s so interesting to hear you say that you’re looking at diversification of your business interest because for the person on the street, they just think, it’s just a tennis event. That’s all it is. Bring some players in, throw some balls around, and put it on the television. But to hear that you’re talking about working with funds, and investing in startups, and all that sort of thing, it’s come a long way.

Craig Tiley:

It has. We used to be Tennis Australia. You don’t see that brand much. We are tennis, but we run sports and entertainment events. We invest in them. We invest in music. We invest in food. We invest in entertainment for kids. We invest in innovation, and for a long time, we’ve invested in multimillion dollars in technology and even more so recently. And it’s a matter of then having the capability in a people sense. We have a global workforce, some of our leaders from all around the world and even now I think it’s a magnificent buyer’s market for talent. And so, we’ll look at that closely. We’re in the process of hiring more people right now because we’re just going to right-size the organization and refocus our energies on the things that are going to give us a big return in more in the long term.

Chris Lukianenko:

How much planning goes into an event? Is it a matter of pretty much handing over the Champion’s trophy one year, and then you’re straight onto planning meetings for the next?

Craig Tiley:

No, we work on about a two-year cycle because otherwise, it becomes stale. The last three months have thrown us for a bit of a loop, which is a good thing because it makes everyone think differently, which I like. Let’s take last year. So the 2020 event, we would have started the planning and actions for and mobilized the workforce in 2018. And then, by a certain date, we stop 2020, and we go on to deliver 2019, which had been planned back in 2017. So, it’s about a two-year window. This is the year we’re be planning a lot for 2022. But because we went into this lockdown, we’ve got five plans for 2021.

Chris Lukianenko:

For this coming event, you’ve got five plans.

Craig Tiley:

Five plans. Yeah.

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh wow.

Craig Tiley:

And they range from running an event with no change to not running an event at all. And so, they’re five very sophisticated, detailed business plan.

Chris Lukianenko:

That is amazing.

Craig Tiley:

And we’d normally only have one, and you focus your whole workforce on one. We have a workforce now focused on five different ones.

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh wow.

Craig Tiley:

That’s why we haven’t been able to plan this year for 2022.

Chris Lukianenko:

It’s amazing to hear. We’re seeing different domestic sporting codes here and overseas finding ways to showcase their sports. But when your event is an international global one, it is next level of complexity to work through. And I think that’s just exactly what you’ve shown there.

Craig Tiley:

It is. It’s a complex thing, but it’s fun. It’s like what you guys do the whole time. It’s just a big chess board or jigsaw, and you just try and put it together every day and try and find different ways to create a different picture. So, it is complex. It’s a lot bigger than people actually realize because… And even myself coming into the growth and we’ve had very aggressive growth over the last five years, and we had a plan for more aggressive growth the next five.

Craig Tiley:

I do think the revenue and the cost base for everyone’s going to be different for sporting codes and entertainment, at least because we’re all going to be figuring out the safety and the health of our patrons and our partners in first instance, and there’s going to be many partners. We got an airline partner in Emirates and how much money is Emirates going to have to spend on sponsorship because they’ve all been gutted. We got other partners in other parts of the world. And we got to return back to those days, but I think they’re different in… And what I’m excited about, they’re going to be different conversations and we’re going to be able to start afresh with partners and new partners. In fact, we’re going to be announcing shortly we’ve found a new partner out of another country and it’s a massive partner for us. It’s a global brand.

Chris Lukianenko:

Fantastic.

Craig Tiley:

And most people are not getting that opportunity in this period, but we’ve been able to do that. So, I think, but we are in this period going to take advantage of it to also to kind of right-size the organization for the future. And the future is going to be more innovation, more digital focus. And in many cases, sometimes those you don’t have to be so reliant on people workforce, you can have a digital workforce, as well.

Chris Lukianenko:

I was having a bit of a think this week in preparing for this interview with you, and I was thinking, so the Australian Open is the first Open, the first major of the year. So that’s actually been played for the 2020 season. Wimbledon’s being canceled. The French has been postponed, at this stage, the US Open is still planned to go ahead, but up in the air. It could actually be that this year that the Australian Open from January this year is the only major that is played in this current tennis season.

Craig Tiley:

And potentially the only one that starts next year.

Chris Lukianenko:

True.

Craig Tiley:

Or… Not the only one, sorry, or the one that launches next year.

Chris Lukianenko:

Launches next year, yeah.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah. So, look, how lucky we would be if that was the case, but we desperately want the other events to happen because we want to learn from them. And we want to see some things that they do that are really good and some things that didn’t work out. And we also… We’re all in this together, so we are helping them too, and actually, what’s interesting about this period now, is that more than ever before, I have a role where I represent all the major sports to government and to the outside world with a coalition of major professional and participation sports, and we’ve all come together and we’re sharing IP, sharing assets, sharing workforce, looking how we can help our international cohort. And I think it’s a great opportunity for sport to be much more collaborative in its thinking and less bureaucratic and also to set sport up as businesses. We have to have a return. The return’s in people participating in it and being customers, consumers of it, and then people enjoying the entertainment of it. And I think it’s a massive opportunity for sport to do that.

Chris Lukianenko:

So, The US Open is traditionally August. It seems not too far away.

Craig Tiley:

We’re going to find out on June the 17th whether they go ahead, but right now they’re planning on chartering flights from around the world, bringing players in to an assigned hotel, they’ll have specific transport to the courts. They’ll just arrive at the courts, play their match, go back to the hotel. That’s what they’re planning on doing, and they’re planning on doing it without crowds. So, it’s going to be interesting. We’ll know in the next 10 days whether or not that gets up and we hope it does. But the French have said to us that the borders in Europe will be opening up at the end of the month. And, as a consequence, they expect to have full crowds at the French Open, that’s later in September.

Chris Lukianenko:

So, for you, six months out from the Aussie Open, if there’s no cure, if there’s no international travel, it could look like a pretty bleak event for you, couldn’t it? No crowds, maybe?

Craig Tiley:

We’ll have no crowds. We’re going to find a way to get the players in and we’ll have no crowds, but if that were the case, but we’re pretty confident. Look, in Australia, I think everyone’s done a really good job. If we manage the second spike and the third spike, and it’s low, and we’ve done well with it, then I think we’re be in great shape. At this point, we’re planning on our second plan, that’s scenario two, which is having an event with some elements of social distancing. Actually, in tennis, we don’t call it social distancing. We call it physical distancing because tennis is very social. We want to promote social. So, we want people to go out, and play, and have fun, and be social, but we want them to physically distance from each other.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yeah. How do the players, potentially, for next year feel about maybe playing with no crowd?

Craig Tiley:

That’s not an ideal option for us. That’s a challenging one, both commercially, and from a sport point of view. They’re willing to do it. We’ve spoken to all of them. They’re willing to do it because they just want to get out and play and earn a living. But if that is the case, we have a very different cost, space, and revenue base with that, but I’m pretty confident. I think Australia is going to be in a good position by the end of the year, and hopefully, we’ve got rid of this virus for the most part. We’ve got a handle on being able to manage if we get second and third spikes. We’re lucky. We live in a country where the sanctity of human life is a priority. And, as a result, the focus on human life has been the outcome of our government. And that’s benefited tennis. It’s benefited us because now there’s a great brand positioning of Australia, globally. So, players and fans from around the states, within Australia, are quite comfortable coming to Melbourne or go to the other capital cities to watch our lead-in events, because they know we’ve managed this crisis.

Chris Lukianenko:

You got to feel for someone like Nadal or Federer who are getting towards the end of their career and sort of maybe for them, they’re thinking, “Oh, I might not get to play another Open event in Australia.”

Craig Tiley:

Oh, well, we’ve been in touch with them and actually I’ve been given them a bit of a hard time and said, “You guys, I think you planned this thing because you don’t have to do the stress and strain on your body at this point in your life. You’re going to have a longer career.” They both plan on having a longer go at it. And we’re going to see another year or two of Federer and probably another three or four, maybe five of Rafa.

Chris Lukianenko:

That’s great news for fans.

Craig Tiley:

Yeah. So, I think that’s going to happen. And I think we’ll see more of Serena Williams and that’s great. We have Ash Barty. Ash Barty’s going on a long run-

Chris Lukianenko:

Yes.

Craig Tiley:

…and be number one in the world, which is fantastic.

Chris Lukianenko:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Craig Tiley:

We’re pretty excited. A lot of young Australians and some very interesting dynamic talent, globally, coming through that’s going to be fun to watch. Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alex Zverev, and some really good, good players. But, tennis is going to be in good shape. We got to figure out as global entities to make sure we keep growing the game, and growing the events, and get through this crisis in a positive way. I think we’ve taken and made decisions and take an action prior to this and during this that will set us up well in the future. But you never know. I don’t take anything for granted. Everything’s uncertain day to day. Don’t take [inaudible 00:29:46]

Chris Lukianenko:

One of those things that we mentioned earlier on was the idea of reimagine. Is one of those five options that you’ve talked about earlier for having the Aussie Open on, was it going to look anything like the Madrid Open, where it was played virtually?

Craig Tiley:

You know what? That is one of the ways to reimagine it, but we’re not going to play the Australian Open virtually. We’ll offer lots of opportunities for people, but no. We’re going to reimagine the event, no question. Everyone’s experience coming to the event this year will be different to 2020 because the first thing we do is make sure that they’re very safe and that’s going to be the case and we’re going to protect each other. And I’m really excited about some of the initiatives I’ve seen our team [inaudible 00:30:23]. We’ve such a creative team. They have a lot of fun too because they come up with these magnificent ideas. And one thing we can guarantee the public, the event will be big. It’ll be different, and it’ll be an experience you’ll come away and you’ll say, “Oh my gosh, that was even different to 2020. And how was that pulled off during having the year of a crisis in health.” So, we’re working towards that and I’m pretty confident that we’re going to provide our fans that experience.

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh, that is absolutely fantastic. Because if you think about it, you mentioned before that you’ve got the precursor events in all the different states. So, you combine that across the month of sort of December, January, whatever it is in Australia, that leaves a very, very big hole in our finances, doesn’t it, if the event doesn’t go ahead.

Craig Tiley:

It does.

Chris Lukianenko:

You mentioned, I think it was, was it 350 million for Melbourne, but further to that-

Craig Tiley:

Yeah. That’s the economic impact just for Melbourne. And then we have events in Sydney, we have in Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, Canberra, and in Adelaide. Yeah. So they all host. We even have the National Indigenous Championships in Darwin. So, they all host events that are significant to the economy and to the people and the communities. A lot of economic impact will be impacted if we don’t have the events. But we don’t believe that’s going to happen. We think we’re going to be able to pick these things up and put them in. As long as Australia and the community do what the government tells them to do, and in distancing, and testing, and staying away if we’re feeling sick. If we do that, we won’t have that spike.

Chris Lukianenko:

So, let’s just say the event does get up and running for 2021. Let’s fast forward to the end of the tournament. What’s your vision for what you’re described as having just put on a successful event?

Craig Tiley:

Obviously, the Australians have done really well.

Chris Lukianenko:

Ash Barty wins the Women’s.

Craig Tiley:

[crosstalk 00:32:11] The Women’s. The men have done well. That’d be one. The other would be just a festival, an entertainment festival of sport, and food, and music, and young kids having a great time with their families, and everyone comes away and feels really good about not being in lockdown, feeling safe with the health issues. People working together more, talking more, be more collaborative, coming out of this crisis about being a different race in the sense of looking at life differently. I saw something the other day which I’d like to do an overlay of the Australian Open is that maybe our new heroes are the frontline workers of this crisis and of the bushfires, and not so much the heroes and the people that we see on social media. I think that when it comes to tennis, we want to provide the same thing. We want to provide the heroes of people with great character who are in it for the long haul and are providing Australia and our community with an opportunity to really have a great time.

Chris Lukianenko:

Nice words. Nice words. A couple of personal questions, just to sort of wrap this thing up together. In your time at the helm you’ve had some amazing players come and play on the court, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Williams, Wozniacki, Murray, Barty, Sharapova. You’re a tennis coach for a long time. Captain of the South African Davis Cup squad. Out of the current group of players, who would you most like to coach?

Craig Tiley:

That’s a great question. I spent some time on the court with Roger Federer when he was a young kid, but no one knew then he was going to be as great as he was.

Chris Lukianenko:

That was a while ago.

Craig Tiley:

All those players you mentioned, I have a personal relationship with-

Chris Lukianenko:

Oh, nice.

Craig Tiley:

… and friendship with, and over the years, we’ve done a lot of things together. Some of that group I really consider close friends. They’re all different characters, personalities. If I coached Rafa Nadal, I’d love to coach him because you’d never have to worry about motivating him because he’s so [crosstalk 00:34:13]

Chris Lukianenko:

No.

Craig Tiley:

[inaudible 00:34:16] Federer, I’d love to do that because he’s got such a natural ability as far as tennis goes. But I’d probably be more interested in coaching none of those people. I’d be interested in coaching someone that no one’s ever heard about and help them become number one player in the world. And that’s what I used to enjoy about coaching is really helping develop a player holistically, and help them realize their dreams. That’s the fun bit about coaching. In many ways, in this role as a CEO, I’m a coach. I’m coaching a large [crosstalk 00:34:45].

Chris Lukianenko:

Yes, for sure.

Craig Tiley:

… team and I think that career in coaching did prepare me well for this. I miss those days because coaching’s a heck of a lot of fun.

Chris Lukianenko:

So you’ve been with Tennis Australia since around 2005, CEO, 2013 or thereabouts. What’s been your proudest moment during that time?

Craig Tiley:

I think there’s been many great moments of the organization. Ash Barty’s one who for 10 years, we supported and assisted her and her family where we could, and her private coach is Jim Joyce, and did also a magnificent job. And having her win a Grand Slam title, it’s always a vision to have one of your country’s players that you’ve helped along the way win a Grand Slam, kind of reach the pinnacle of their sport. That was a proud moment for all of us. I think each year we have a proud moment on delivering the event, and everyone’s expectations are one of intrigue, what’s it going to be, and it’s always so different each year and so special. But, probably, every single day I have a proud moment in the people that work for our… Excuse me, work for our organization, and their effort, and their energy, and their love for the sport and their love for the organization.

Craig Tiley:

But I think if you asked me a question in a month’s time, I think what I’m going to say to you, how we came to through this crisis will be the most proudest moment that I’d be able to talk about.

Chris Lukianenko:

Fantastic. That sounds like a really great time to wrap this thing up. I wish you all the best for the coming years. As a fan of tennis, I so look forward to January every year to seeing the Australian Open. And I hope I can see some great tennis again this coming year. So, Craig Tiley, thank you very much for your time today.

Craig Tiley:

Anytime. Thank you. And it’s always fun to talk about it and maybe next time, we’ll talk about all the crazy stories that you haven’t read about yet, that I’ve had to get go and experienced as well.

Chris Lukianenko:

You’re on. Thank you very much. Thanks for joining me on The Intelligent Workplace podcast brought to you by LiveTiles. If you have any feedback or want to suggest a guest for a future show, email podcast@livetiles.nyc. Thanks for listening. I’ll catch you next time.

 

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