Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton believes America's Cup authorities have eliminated any possibility of a commercially funded team from entering the next event by forcing teams to pay the entry fee before a venue is known.
The requirement that teams pay the US$2 million ($2.4 million) entry fee before the August deadline has left Emirates Team New Zealand "fighting for our very existence", according to Dalton, who returned from Europe yesterday after meeting potential sponsors. With all of Team NZ's sponsors from the 34th America's Cup campaign indicating they are keen to stay on, and fresh interest from other brands, Dalton is now confident he can fund a campaign for the next event. But that's only if the Kiwi syndicate can survive the five-month wait for America's Cup bosses to name a venue, with sponsors unwilling to ink a deal until the host city has been confirmed.
"[Oracle Team USA boss] Russell Coutts has put Team New Zealand under massive heat now based on the issue of the timing of the entry fee. To pay all that money and not even know the venue is nonsensical to me," Dalton said.
"[Coutts] has publicly always said he wants to promote commercialism in the Cup, so why they would eliminate -- and they are eliminating -- any chance of a team that isn't funded by a wealthy private backer?
"The irony is we're probably in the strongest position we've ever been in from a sponsorship point of view, but our immediate future is under threat."
Dalton said while in the context of the overall costs of competing in the America's Cup US$2 million seems like spare change, it is a lot of money when you don't have any and you don't have anything yet to sell. How he will scrape together the entry fee along with the money required to keep the syndicate afloat for the next seven months, until sponsorship money kicks in, is Dalton's chief concern.
Despite the controversy around some of the rules put in place by the defenders for the 35th America's Cup, Dalton said other aspects of Wednesday's Protocol announcement "don't seem so bad".
"It's stacked. But there are still ways you can even that deck up quite a lot," said Dalton, citing a clause that allows two challengers to train together at the venue of the Cup qualifiers as potentially blunting Oracle's advantage in being allowed to build two boats. With a likelihood the America's Cup qualifiers, which determines the four teams that advance through to the "playoffs" for a chance to face Oracle in the 35th Cup match, will be held in the Southern Hemisphere, Dalton said this rule could work in Team NZ's favour. He said New Zealand should look at putting in a bid to host the qualifiers in 2017.
"It may have to come to the southern hemisphere to fit the timing and the Aussies would be keen on that. But certainly New Zealand should be keen on it. Whether it is cost-prohibitive I don't know."