Chairman: 2020 Sports Hub slate better than this year’s
Chairman Jones also says that 2019 is already an improvement on previous year
Just days out from the National Stadium being packed for the International Champions Cup (ICC) matches, Singapore Sports Hub chairman Bryn Jones promised that next year's calendar of events at the Sports Hub will better than this year's.
In terms of the sporting attractions at the $1.33 billion, 35ha venue in Kallang, the matches between Manchester United and Inter Milan on Saturday and Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday are likely to be the highlights for this year.
Sports Hub's chief commercial officer Adam Firth, 47, told The New Paper that both matches will be sell-outs (see story below), but critics have pointed to a lack of marquee sporting events at the venue.
One of the facility's premier draws, the season-ending WTA Finals - which features the top-eight players in women's tennis - ended its five-year stint here last year, while Singapore lost out to Turin in the bidding for the men's equivalent, the ATP Finals.
After the ICC, the highest profile sporting events at the Sports Hub for the rest of the year are the Fina Swimming World Cup next month, UFC Fight Night Singapore in October and potentially the Lions' World Cup qualifiers.
In term of entertainment acts, Irish rock band U2 will be in town at the end of the year, while Cantopop icon Andy Lau returns to Singapore for the first time in 11 years in September.
Welshman Jones, 56, declined to comment on what events Sports Hub Pte Ltd are in discussions with for next year, but insisted: "I believe 2020 will be better than 2019 and 2019 is certainly better than 2018.
"And if I could show you Adam's programme sheet, you'd probably agree with me."
He also highlighted the difficulties in finding top-tier sporting events that Singaporeans would be interested in.
Said Jones: "We're also aware that Singapore, as a consumer of sport, tends to only deal in sporting 1.0. When we go down to 1.0.2, the attraction of it falls away.
"If we had Stoke (City) and Burnley here at the weekend, no one would be turning up. We're acutely aware of that...
"If you think about this weekend... it's interesting, the brand name of United almost carries more weight than a team who were in the Champions League final (Spurs) and another team who have one of the top players (Cristiano Ronaldo from Juve) in the world.
"To me, I'd always choose Sunday (Juventus v Tottenham) as a neutral."
With Borussia Dortmund marketing director Carsten Cramer this month saying he is keen on bringing the team to Singapore next season, TNP asked Firth if the German giants would fit the billing of tier-one teams the Sports Hub is looking for.
Said the Australian: "There is no question it is a tier-one event, (it's) whether it is a tier-one event that Singaporeans want to buy tickets for.
"And there would be a lot of people who would, it's unlikely to sell 50,000 tickets though, depending on the opponent."
Jones added: "It doesn't quite satisfy the appetite for Singaporeans. This is a premier venue and, in some ways, Singapore's appetite and expectations are at a premier level."
But the Sports Hub hasn't always lived up to the expectations of Singaporeans.
In an interview with TNP in May, Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin gave a stark assessment of the venue since its opening in 2014.
He said: "It has just achieved a passing grade and we should be expecting a lot more...
"Footfall has been better, but that is not all that we should expect from the Sports Hub."
Asked for his response to Lim's comments, Jones said: "All I would say is, I would look at the statistics and facts of all the sports that have been going on at the Sports Hub.
"Most things in Singapore are played out in public, so there is no secrets of what goes on here.
"We know the first few years were challenging, both in terms of infrastructure and content.
"Here we sit in 2019 and, in both aspects, this business has come a long way...
"Is that a pass? I don't know.
"I'll leave Teck Yin to his own criteria on that."