Dubai's plan to hijack our Cup

By Steve Deane

Team New Zealand's main sponsor, Emirates, wants the next America's Cup to be held in Dubai - a move that could cost New Zealand about $500 million.

Boutros Boutros, vice-president of media relations and promotions at the Dubai airline, said the company would like Team New Zealand to defend the Cup in the Gulf state if they win it back in Valencia in the regatta starting on Monday.

He told a Dubai website: "Emirates Team New Zealand is considering coming to Dubai. They believe Dubai can host the America's Cup."

Mr Boutros told the Weekend Herald last night: "Of course we would like to see it. Dubai would like to see it and Emirates would like to see it."

But Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said the syndicate had a contract with the NZ Government, which has poured more than $30 million into the campaign, stating that if they won the cup back the event would return to Auckland.

There was nothing in the team's sponsorship agreement with Emirates to say the event would be held in Dubai should they win.

And there had never been any discussion with Emirates about staging the event in Dubai.

Dalton said the team's sponsorship deal with Emirates was for the Valencia campaign only, and there were no guarantees the Arab airline would be interested in backing them again, although the team hoped the relationship would continue.

And he had a compromise suggestion for Dubai.

"If we are lucky enough to run a defence, we would certainly look at the idea of holding a pre-regatta in Dubai."

The Xpress website reported Mr Boutros as saying the idea of staging the cup regatta in Dubai had been discussed with Team NZ, but he last night denied this.

But he said it had been discussed at boardroom level when Emirates decided to sponsor Team NZ.

"When we went into it we thought 'if they win we may host it'. But it is not necessary to host everything. It could be one part of it," he said.

"Everything is open for discussion. So far we haven't spoken about renewing the contract. You have to see the results first, then we'll decide.

"There is nothing solid, no deal to say we will hold it in Dubai."

A Government study found the 2003 regatta put $529 million into New Zealand's economy.

Last night, Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard said from Valencia where he is attending the cup regatta's opening ceremony: "Certainly the New Zealand Government and Auckland City are working on the basis that it is coming back to Auckland if we win the Cup.

"The New Zealand Government is putting $30 million odd into the America's Cup challenge and it won't be looking very favourably on any moves to take it elsewhere."

Full coverage of the America's Cup from nzherald.co.nz/americascup and toyotadesktoptv.co.nz

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