UBS to end Hong Kong Open stint as credit crunch bites

The official media release tried to make it look as positive as possible: “UBS to complete commitment to the Hong Kong Open” was the headline in the communiqué from the Asian Tour.

However, reading deeper into the article, the reality of the global recession hits home. Yes, UBS is completing its five-year commitment to the Hong Kong Open this November. But after that, the tournament will be without a sponsor.

“UBS to end Hong Kong Open commitment” would have been a more accurate headline, though the release goes on to say that preliminary talks with potential new sponsors have already begun.

The Swiss-based bank has been the tournament’s most loyal sponsor for some time, helping to gain exposure for the event that is jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.

But the credit crunch is hitting banks hard, and golf will inevitably suffer. HSBC, one of the world’s biggest banks, recently announced a major drop in business and is poised to raise more than 12 billion pounds through Britain’s biggest ever rights offer.

The bank is now reviewing its sponsorship of the HSBC Women’s Champions tournament, which was held last week in Singapore.

Their five-year deal with the LPGA has expired and there is a danger that it could join three other events that have dropped off the LPGA Tour in the past few months.

Although professional golf has been holding firm against the economic downturn, it is not immune. The US PGA Tour has already lost Wachovia Corp as one of its tournament sponsors.

As for the Hong Kong Open, prior to UBS’s involvement, it was involved in an annual struggle to find sponsorship. Yet, it still survives today and remains the former British colony’s oldest professional sports tournament, having started in 1959.

David Ciclitira, chairman of promoter Parallel Media Group, was confident the popular Hong Kong event would continue to thrive in the future. He said in the release:

“All our secondary sponsors are committed to continuing with the tournament and preliminary discussions have started with potential new title sponsors. We are confident that with more than 15 support sponsors currently involved the tournament will grow in the forthcoming years.”

Leave a Reply