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Queensland Could Lose WSL Corona Open To NSW Or WA As Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Is Cancelled

T
he Gold Coast will reportedly not host the World Surfing League’s (WSL) Corona Open this year after the Queensland Government refused to pay the cost of hotel quarantine for surfers.

The event was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was scheduled this year for May at Snapper Rocks, but Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the WSL had been unable to agree with Queensland Health on a COVID-safe plan.

“That is absolutely crucial because COVID-safe plans for sport have kept Queenslanders safe,” Palaszczuk said.

“If the chief health officer is not happy with that COVID-safe plan, well, then it can’t go ahead,” she said.

The Gold Coast Bulletin reported NSW and Western Australia are prepared to spend up to $5 million to host the event.

Queensland tourism minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, said he was disappointed with the decision by the WSL.

“I am less disappointed with the NSW Government than I am with the World Surf League’s decision to chase short-term dollars at the expense of surfing tradition,” Hinchliffe said.

“The breaks at Snapper Rocks are highly regarded worldwide, as are those at Bells Beach in Victoria.

“The WSL made it clear holding the event at Snapper Rocks this year was conditional on the Queensland Government picking up the quarantine tab for the WSL’s international competitors.

“Quarantine expenses for sporting events have always been the responsibility of the organising body.

“If that’s what NSW has agreed to pay to lure the WSL, then NSW taxpayers who have paid for hotel quarantine out of their own pocket should ask for a refund,” he said.

An industry source told the Gold Coast Bulletin: “We didn’t expect to be engaged in a bidding war with NSW and Western Australia who put together a war chest of taxpayer funds as a lure.”

“Essentially the government were hamstrung because Queensland, like Victoria, stood firm on forking out taxpayer funds to put up athletes.

“So now rather than keeping it where it should be, WSL are now trying to give the classic to the highest bidder rather than keep it on the Gold Coast, which is the home of surfing,” the source said.

The WSL is expected to make an official statement on the Corona Open tomorrow.

The move comes after the WSL announced the cancellation of the 2021 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Victoria after it was “unable to secure a pre-approved bubble in Victoria ahead of the event.”

Rip Curl brand and marketing manager, Neil Ridgway, said the event was due to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2021, as the longest-running competition in elite surfing.

“Unfortunately, we had to cancel the competition because keeping Surf Coast Shire and Victoria COVID-19 free is a top priority,” Ridgway said.

Despite the cancellation of the 2021 event, WSL, Rip Curl, and the Victorian Government announced the signing of a three-year deal to keep the event at Bells Beach from 2022.

WSL Asia Pacific manager, Andrew Stark, said of the new partnership announcement: “It was a difficult decision to cancel the event, but the new agreement will ensure that one of surfing’s historical events will return and continue for many Easters to come.”