9 Feb 2021

Budge to step back from ASB Classic

by Rhonda Karl
Budge to step back from ASB Classic

ASB Classic Tournament Director, Karl Budge, has confirmed that he will be stepping down from his current role at the end of March.

Budge has been in the role for nine years during which time he has led the tournament through a period of unprecedented growth in terms of attendance, revenue, international coverage and transformed the ASB Classic into the must attend event on the Auckland social calendar.

During his time at the helm tennis fans have seen some of the biggest names in world sport take to centre court at the ASB Tennis Arena, including Ana Ivanovic, Juan Martin del Porto, Venus Williams, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Caroline Wozniacki, Naomi Osaka and 2020 champion Serena Williams.

It’s a role that Budge is going to find hard to leave behind.

“It’s been an absolute privilege working on the ASB Classic bringing one of New Zealand’s favourite events to life for the past eight summers. There have been a lot of highs, as well as some very challenging days, and I feel honored to have been able to work on behalf of the sporting public to bring some of the biggest names in world sport to Auckland” said Budge.

Cancelling the 2021 tournament was one of the hardest decisions the experienced industry professional said he has had to make.

“Obviously Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the international and domestic events industry. Having to cancel this year’s tournament was heartbreaking but the support of the fans and our sponsors assured us we had made the right decision” said Budge.

Budge thought the timing was right to hand over the reins.

“The ASB Classic has established itself as one of the best stops on both the WTA and ATP Tours.  We have incredible support from sponsors and our passionate fans, of which I will now become one, and I eagerly await the return of the ASB Classic in 2022”.

The 2021 ASB Classic was cancelled due to Covid-19 and the implication of international travel and quarantine for international players.  Tennis Auckland has reaffirmed that planning will continue for an ASB Classic in 2022 and are working with both Tours, sponsors and key stakeholders on planning.  

Tennis Auckland Chairman, Simon Vannini thanked Budge for his commitment and dedication to the ASB Classic.

“Karl really has transformed the ASB Classic into the commercial and sporting success it is today.  We have seen our attendance triple, an influx of new sponsors and some of the biggest sports stars to visit these shores in recent memory under his watch.  On behalf of the Tennis Auckland board, I would like to congratulate and thank Karl for his commitment, dedication and relentless pursuit of improvement for the ASB Classic.  We wish Karl all the very best for his future ventures.”

ASB head of community and sponsorship Mark Graham agreed that Budge had a significant impact on the tournament during his time.

“It’s been a privilege to have worked with Karl for the past nine years. It takes a talented individual to lead an event like this and to continually improve on the previous tournament with new ideas and innovative thinking, along with attracting a talented pool of players every year. A lot of the credit for the ASB Classic’s success over the past decade goes to Karl and we wish him all the best” said Graham.

Tennis New Zealand CEO Julie Paterson said Karl’s departure would be felt throughout tennis.

“Karl has led the ASB Classic’s significant growth and profile and has every reason to be very proud of the success during his time at the helm.  Karl, the team at Tennis Auckland and the many volunteers who contribute to this annual event are to be congratulated on the professionalism and success of the tournament year after year.  The ASB Classic is a wonderful shopfront for tennis in New Zealand.  They contribute to the economy, create opportunities for tennis participants in NZ, and add significantly to the obvious pride the tennis community feel about our sport.  We wish Karl all the very best in his future endeavours” said Paterson.

Budge will be staying on with Tennis Auckland and the ASB Classic as a consultant for the foreseeable future and will work with the team in planning for 2022.

As usual, Budge gets the last word…

“I would just like to say thank you for the opportunity.  I have had incredible support from my team over the years, players, both the ATP and WTA Tours, our sponsors, our quite brilliant volunteers, the media and our fans, for which I am incredibly humbled and appreciative of”.