America’s Cup: Call for Team NZ to ‘stay loyal’ following reports of rejected $100m bid to keep regatta in Auckland

Reports that Team New Zealand have rejected a $100 million offer from the Government and Auckland Council to keep the America’s Cup in the country have been met with a call for the team to “stay loyal”.

“We need Team New Zealand to stay loyal. That was the catch-cry that they gave New Zealand, was to be loyal to them,” said Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.

“We came out and backed them. We created an environment, we created a spectacle that the rest of the world looked at and now they are leveraging off that as a means of going somewhere else.”

Before the end of this year’s regatta Team New Zealand confirmed they were considering whether to take the world’s oldest sporting trophy overseas. Documents showed they had appointed agents to seek international bids, where host cities were invited to offer a “rights/sanction fee” from the host city to the yachting syndicate, as well as to commit to covering the operating costs of the America’s Cup match.

The final race of the 36th America’s Cup kicked off a three-month period of good faith negotiations, during which Auckland had the first right of refusal to host the next match. That window ends on June 17.

Sources today told the Herald the team had been offered a package worth $100m, made up of cash and “in kind” support such as the use of land in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, but that had been rejected.

Team New Zealand said this morning that it had recently received the Government and Auckland Council’s “position”, which would be considered in the coming days.

“Emirates Team New Zealand is currently still within the exclusive three-month negotiation period with government and council, so it is premature to comment on commercial negotiations until they have concluded,” a spokesman said.

“However, we have only recently received the Government and Council position, which we will now carefully consider over the next two weeks.”

Barnett said he believed Team New Zealand’s success had been because the public supported them.

“The public and the Government and Auckland have ploughed hundreds of millions of dollars into backing their campaigns. There must surely be a pay-back rather than heading off to the highest bidder.”

He said he did not believe it would be possible to create the same “visual spectacle” enjoyed in New Zealand anywhere else in the world and questioned how you put a dollar figure on that.

Barnett suggested the team learn how to better leverage off that spectacle and market it better to the world as a part of their revenue.

“If it is just a purse maybe we can’t compete. If it’s more than the purse and it’s about what’s good for Auckland, it’s about the success and the loyalty of New Zealanders that’s created the event perhaps they could offer some value of giving back.”

As for the city, he said the loss of such a major event would be a blow to the profile Auckland gets from it as well as the millions of dollars poured into the city’s businesses by local and international spectators.

Barnett said the team needed to look at what the country had done to support them over the long term rather than just looking at the lost revenue from the year’s regatta caused by Covid-19 lockdowns and border closures.

The office of Auckland mayor Phil Goff this morning told Newstalk ZB he would not be commenting while negotiations were still under way.

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