Australian Open fans are welcome to wear Peng Shuai t-shirts
Australian Open spectators are encouraged to wear t-shirts supporting Peng Shuai, tournament director Craig Tiley said.
Organizers have come under fire after a woman wearing a ‘Where is Peng Shuai’ t-shirt was kicked out of the event last week, with Martina Navratilova calling the move ‘cowardly’ and accusing Tennis Australia of ‘capitulating’ against China.
There has been great concern inside and outside tennis for the well-being of the former world doubles number one since she disappeared from view in November after making allegations about the social networks about a senior Chinese official.
Peng has since made several public appearances but there remain serious question marks over his freedom and the WTA has suspended all tournaments in China.
Craig Tiley, chief executive of Tennis Australia and tournament director of the Australian Open, told the PA news agency that the problem was not with the t-shirt but with the intention to disrupt the tournament .
He said: “We were on the way at the very beginning with the WTA and that’s because we are well connected in the region. We agree with the WTA’s position.
“However, when coming to the site, we have pretty clear terms and conditions and that is if you come to the site for the purpose of disrupting the safety and comfort of the fans, you are not welcome. But if you want to wear a T-shirt that says ‘Where’s Peng Shuai?’, you can come on site, that’s fine.
“There was a suspicion around the motivation of this person to come to the site, but we have since contacted this person and told them that they are welcome to come to the site, that they can wear a t-shirt, but not bring a banner, because you cannot bring banners on the site.
“It has nothing to do with a political or commercial statement. Our security guards are trained to take a common-sense approach, and I think that’s in everyone’s interest.
Fans wearing Peng Shuai t-shirts were filmed entering Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
Having kept a very low profile in the aftermath of Novak Djokovic’s expulsion, Tiley has made himself more visible in recent days.
Tennis Australia has been criticized for its role in seeking exemptions for unvaccinated players to enter the country, but Tiley dismissed suggestions that the fiasco had damaged the reputation of the tournament.
“No, I absolutely don’t think so,” he said. “I think the reputation of the tournament has been defined by what you see today. We had more people around the world watching the Australian Open than ever before.
“The feedback we get from our on-site customer satisfaction surveys has been the highest, even higher than in 2020. The feedback we get from our broadcasters has also been the highest. Eurosport released a note this morning saying they are getting their biggest numbers ever.
“Nobody is bigger than the event. I think we’re going to end up over the next five days with a big event and potentially some new champions.
Another hot topic is the issue of Covid-19 testing for players, who along with the rest of the workforce are allowed to use the daily antigen tests provided.
Two players, Ugo Humbert and Alison Van Uytvanck, have announced the tests they took to leave the country have come back positive, and Alexander Zverev said last week he believed positive cases were creeping in.
Tiley said: “It’s really impossible to supervise 3,000 people every morning. We hope the players do the right thing.
“We know we’ve handed out thousands of antigen tests for players, we’re getting feedback from many that they’re continuing to do the right thing and we’re still getting positive results, so we know they’re continuing to do so. are.
“In our mandatory testing, we were well below community averages, so the mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing approach, along with the testing program, will hopefully help us to get through this event with much lower positive case rates. than the community.