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Russian Open in danger of being cancelled

The Russian Open, part of the main European Tour since 2003, is in danger of being scrapped this year because of the global financial crisis, the event organiser said on Tuesday.

“It looks right now that this year we may have to skip (hosting the tournament, scheduled for Aug. 6-9),” tournament director Hans Koeleman told Reuters in an interview.

Dutchman Koeleman, who has been involved in hosting and promoting the event since 2001, said he has had difficulty finding a new title sponsor to keep the event afloat.

Russian real estate company Inteco, which guaranteed last year’s prize money, was forced to pull out this year because of the difficult economic situation.

Inteco head Yelena Baturina, the billionaire wife of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, has seen her wealth tumble this year amid a 70 percent collapse of Russia’s stock market.

“We’re short of some 1.5 million euros ($2.04 million). We have about one million euros but we need another 1.5 million to run a full-fledged tournament,” Koeleman said. “It would make sense to give it a miss this year and come back strong in 2010.”

Koeleman said he would have to make a decision by next month. “We have to find a sponsor by April, otherwise we won’t have everything ready to have a successful tournament.”

The Russian Open, held at a picturesque course at the Moscow Country Club just north of the capital, has seen a steady growth over the last few years.

“Last year total prize money was $2 million and we had plans to raise it to two million euros this year with the total budget being around 3.2 million euros,” Koeleman said.

“Of course, that was before the global crisis. We had to make some cuts in our budget which is now about 2.5 million euros.”

Despite the financial woes, however, Koeleman was hoping for a brighter future.

“I would hate to see the tournament die out because I worked very hard for eight years to build it up,” he said.

“I’m still optimistic that we’ll find a new sponsor. This (difficult) situation can’t go on forever.”


March 25, 2009

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