Australia cancels Djokovic’s visa again as Open and Sport 24 deal renewed
Tennis - 14 Jan 2022
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has had his Australian visa canceled for a second time ahead of the upcoming Australian Open in an ongoing saga about the validity of his rights for entry to the country due to its Covid-19 restrictions.
Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration, citizenship, migrant services, and multicultural affairs, used his discretionary powers to cancel the visa “on health and good order grounds”, stating that it was in the public interest to do so.
In his statement released today, Hawke continued: “In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force, and Mr. Djokovic.
“The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The country’s prime minister Scott Morrison subsequently released a statement supporting Hawke’s decision and expressing solidarity with the Australian public.
Morrison said: “This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. Together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies, and highest vaccination rates in the world.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.
“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe prior to Covid and now during the pandemic.”
Djokovic is hoping to become the most successful male tennis player in history by winning the Australian Open, which runs from January 17 to 30, and claiming a 21st grand slam title.
However, the Serb has previously voiced his opposition to vaccination against Covid-19, which is at odds with the country’s entry requirement for proof of vaccination.
Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to enter Australia from the Victorian government, having provided proof of a recent positive test for Covid-19.
However, he was detained on arrival, his entry visa initially quashed, and he was moved to an immigration hotel while an appeal was dealt with.
The visa cancellation was ultimately overturned but, subsequently, questions have been raised about errors on Djokovic’s entry paperwork, his breaking of isolation guidelines subsequent to receiving his test result, and even the validity of the test itself.
Hawke’s decision, therefore, likely takes into account political factors as well as those relating to public health.
Djokovic is being allowed to stay in his current accommodation until tomorrow (January 15) when he will meet immigration officials, with the possibility of another legal challenge being launched.
For the Australian Open, Djokovic’s absence from the tournament would lessen the appeal for viewers and value for broadcasters.
At the time of Djokovic’s initial visa cancellation, Patrick Kinch, sport analyst at GlobalData, commented: “The implication for Tennis Australia, the managers of the Australian Open, is a lower quality event with a less desirable narrative of competition between its record winner and competing men’s singles players.
“A more tangible impact may be felt by the broadcasters. The lead domestic rights for the Australian Open are carried by Channel Nine Network in a $230 million deal between 2020 and 2024. The knock-on effect of Djokovic’s absence will be lower TV ratings as the competition will be without its nine-time defending champion, with a new winner looking likely to be crowned this year given his resulting visa complications.”
Were Djokovic to successfully mount a fresh legal challenge, it is likely he would receive a hostile reception among large parts of the home crowd.
However, that would be tempered to some extent due to spectator capacity at the host venue’s Rod Laver Arena center court and Margaret Court Arena second show court having been capped at 50% under updated Covid-19 restrictions announced yesterday (January 13).
However, Ben Slack, of the Tennis Australia national governing body for the sport, said in a statement: “There are no changes to ground pass access and we still expect to see strong crowds.”
Meanwhile, Tennis Australia has announced the renewal of its broadcast partnership with Sport 24, the in-flight and in-ship entertainment service owned by international sports agency IMG.
The three-year deal will see Sport 24 and its sister channel Sport 24 Extra continue to show coverage of the Australian Open, with over 150 hours a year.
It builds on an existing partnership of over 10 years.
Richard Wise, senior vice president of IMG’s content and channels media business, said: “As the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open is always a must-see event for tennis and sports fans alike.
"We very much value our long-standing partnership with Tennis Australia and are delighted to have extended the relationship for a further three years, which in turn is good news for passengers for the next couple of weeks and the following two years.”