Papakura Courier

Cup decision really a no-brainer

- GORDON CAMPBELL

OPINION: Bye bye, Miss America’s Cup pie.

In New Zealand’s hands, the portions of the pie for yachting’s most prestigiou­s contest had been steadily shrinking.

Eleven teams contested the 2007 Cup contest in Europe. Only three teams turned up in Auckland in 2021.

For Emirates, the case for moving the Cup back to Europe – or to anywhere closer to the world’s main travel hubs – must have seemed a no-brainer.

Although the final decision was announced only last week, both the government and the Auckland Council had known since mid 2021 – when Emirates Team New Zealand rejected their joint $99 million offer in cash and kind – that the move offshore was virtually inevitable.

It has been an instructiv­e exercise, regardless.

Although the America’s Cup is often described as a ‘‘business venture’’ it seemed like one of those business ventures where all the risks were socialised, and all the gains were privatised, because – reportedly – private investors wouldn’t reliably participat­e unless the taxpayer had picked up the tab beforehand for all the main upfront costs.

In Ireland, that prospect had convinced the Irish government to decline to bankroll the event in the city of Cork because – like the Ardern government here – it concluded that the returns were not big enough (or reliable enough) to justify the risks and upfront costs, even though the outlay would have created some legacy infrastruc­ture.

So would every public investment on such a scale. Arguably, investing similar moneys in public health – or in raising benefit levels significan­tly – might leave behind an even more valuable legacy.

In the end, Barcelona was the only viable option.

It was the only bidder able to offer Emirates Team New Zealand enough cash upfront, good sailing conditions, preexistin­g onshore infrastruc­ture, and local and regional authoritie­s willing to fund whatever it takes to rebuild Barcelona’s tourism industry, post-Covid.

Ultimately, Barcelona had it all over us, including the time zones. As others pointed out, when Cup races were being broadcast in Auckland, it was 4am in Italy and 11pm in New York City. Not exactly prime time. Conversely, 4pm in Barcelona is 3pm in London, 4pm in Rome and 10am in New York.

Obviously, Barcelona can build bigger viewing audiences from those friendlier time zones.

To date, the mishaps and capsizes have reportedly attracted bigger television audiences than the racing itself.

For New Zealand, hosting the Cup had been a losing gamble. According to a consultanc­y report, this country invested a total of $744.2m nationwide in the 2021 Cup defence, but this generated revenues of only $588.1m, largely to Auckland’s benefit.

The shortfall can’t be blamed entirely on Covid. Even so, the pandemic still places a sizeable question-mark over long-haul internatio­nal air travel (Air New

Zealand is not expecting to return to profit before 2025 at the earliest).

In the end, the likely returns simply couldn’t outweigh the negative aspects of holding the next regatta in Auckland.

To that extent, the regrets from central and local government felt like crocodile tears.

Similarly and for much of the public, the goodbyes were tinged with some feelings of relief about finally being shot of the thing.

 ?? DAVID WHITE/ STUFF ?? Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling after winning the America’s Cup in Auckland in 2021.
DAVID WHITE/ STUFF Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling after winning the America’s Cup in Auckland in 2021.
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