Singapore could host Bledisloe Cup within 5 years
Sport Singapore chief Lim Teck Yin tells TNP he is hopeful of bringing All Blacks-Wallabies clash to National Stadium
Having played host to some of the world's top football teams and the titans of women's tennis, the Singapore Sports Hub is keen to add the big hitters of men's tennis and the biggest rivalry in rugby to its resume.
In an interview with The New Paper, Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin said he is hopeful of bringing the Bledisloe Cup clash between the All Blacks and Wallabies to Singapore within the next five years and hosting an ATP Tour Masters 1000 tournament at the refurbished Kallang Tennis Centre.
In February, the Singapore leg of the World Rugby Sevens series was ranked second out of the 10 stops by the sport's governing body and, earlier this month, Sports Hub chairman and acting chief executive Bryn Jones told TNP that he had spoken to World Rugby about bringing the Bledisloe Cup to Singapore.
But Lim went one step further, providing a timeline for the Test match between New Zealand and Australia - who between them have won five of the eight Rugby World Cups.
Said the 56-year-old: "The travel distance from Australia and New Zealand to Singapore is manageable, they are going farther afield. (Japan hosted the third Bledisloe Cup Test last October).
"So, Singapore should be a great destination for the Bledisloe Cup...
"I would certainly hope to see the Bledisloe Cup here within the next five years .
"But it's more a question of whether the stars align for that to happen because there are other competing cities as well."
The Republic knows all too well how it feels to lose major sporting events to other cities.
The WTA Finals - which features the top eight players in women's tennis - moves to Shenzhen, China, in October after a five-year stint at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Singapore's bid to bring the men's equivalent, the ATP Finals, to the Sports Hub after London's tenure ends next year was also unsuccessful, with the Italian city of Turin getting the nod.
But former national water polo player Lim believes top-class tennis is still on the cards once the upgraded Singapore Tennis Centre is ready in the second half of 2021.
The facility will meet the requirements for hosting ATP Tour Masters 1000 events, which are the third tier of tennis tournaments, below only the Grand Slams and the ATP Finals.
There are nine ATP Tour Masters 1000 tournaments per season with 17-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal holding the record for most titles (34).
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the only player to have won all nine tournaments at least once.
Said Lim, 56: "The WTA Finals and ATP Finals were appropriate tournaments, especially given the infrastructure development for tennis at the stage, because these were the finals that required only one centre court.
"But because we are in the process of building an ATP 1000-compliant facility, we are looking very much at conversations with the ATP and license holders to see what sort of future tennis tournaments we can stage in Singapore.
"So, it's still very much on the cards that we are looking for a good tennis tournament."
However, fixtures between Italian Serie A sides or Spanish La Liga teams at the National Stadium seem less likely.
The president of the Spanish football federation Luis Rubiales last month said he is considering moving the Super Cup to Saudi Arabia from next year for a reported 30 million euros (S$46.1m) a season.
This month, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said he wants La Liga matches to be played in Asia, the Middle East and the United States to compete with the popularity of the English Premier League.
The Italian Super Cup, meanwhile, has been held outside the country for seven of the last 10 years, and in recent times, officials from Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli have all lobbied for staging some Serie A fixtures outside Italy.
Big Italian and Spanish clubs like Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid have played at the National Stadium as part of the Singapore leg of the International Champions Cup.
Said Lim: "I think we have to start looking very intently for a set of football events to be held at the National Stadium...
"After 2020, the ICC will complete its cycle and we have to look and see what's beyond the ICC.
"This is something that we have to discuss with the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) and the Sports Hub as soon as the new CEO settles down."
On the prospect of holding the Serie A or La Liga curtain- raiser or league fixtures here, Lim added: "I think it is something that we could be interested in.
"I hear the price tag is quite astronomical, and you know, the Singapore market is quite an EPL market and that is something we have to consider.
"But while we have the ICC, we still have a buffer of time to think about this and consider it quite carefully."
While the ICC has been one of the highlights at the Sports Hub since its opening in 2014, Lim did not mince words when asked for his assessment of the venue.
He said: "I obviously ask myself the question: What more could be there that we could not have in our old National Stadium and Indoor Stadium?
"And I've always found wanting the whole idea of complete entertainment that is backed by technology, food, music and fringe (events).
"So in that particular respect, for me, 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."