SA gives up home advantage
TSA CEO Ian Smith (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa opted not to host their crucial Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against Canada in September, Tennis SA (TSA) announced on Monday.
Ian Smith, the chief executive of TSA, said the federation was unable to host the tie and had asked Canada to play hosts, to which Tennis Canada (TC) agreed.
The SA team was drawn at home to Canada after beating Slovenia in Soweto last month.
"We want our tennis players to play in front of their own fans and we want South Africans to support tennis," Smith said.
"But at the moment, in the current economic environment, we had to concede."
Smith said SA had hosted eight of the last 11 Davis Cup ties in which the national team was involved and that hosting a single event cost in the region of R1.5 million.
"We are not saying we are in trouble but we have had eight ties and we still have other development programmes to run as well," Smith said.
"I don't want to see in the headlines tomorrow that TSA is bankrupt. We are by no means in trouble.
"We have discussed this move at length and it is an extremely difficult position for the board."
According to International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules, the host nation must have a 4 000-seater stadium.
Smith explained that South Africa had only a 2 000-seater stadium, but while the ITF had agreed to the smaller venue, the costs in accommodating the players and neutral international match umpires was too high for TSA.
"I have spoken to the government but at this time they are not in a position to assist us with this tie," he said.
"I must emphasise that they [government] are consistently very supportive of tennis in our country.
"We would also like to thank the Davis Cup Committee and Tennis Canada for their assistance in what has been an extremely difficult decision for the [TSA] board."
Smith added that other smaller nations had complained in the past that hosting a Davis Cup event was financially difficult, and he said this move should serve as a plea to sponsors to back tennis in SA.
"We have to run TSA like a business so this is a plea for sponsors to get involved with us," Smith said.
"We have looked for sponsors but they have chosen to back bigger sports in the country."