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- 12. December 2013.
Bowls' richest event set for transformation
The Southern Hemisphere's most lucrative bowls' event, the traditionally coveted $140,000 Australian Open will undergo a significant transformation in 2014.
A stronger focus on enhancing the spectator experience will take place for the richest event on the national calendar in 2014, with planning underway for an array of live entertainment to create a festival atmosphere and free to view live streaming just the tip of the iceberg.
In order to provide more participants with a chance to chase a slice of the six-figure prize purse, next year's event will be the first in its 10 year history to feature men's and women's fours disciplines, instead of the customary triples, allowing two pairs teams to combine while retaining all four members, instead of having a player discarded.
To be staged for the fifth time since 2007 at the Darebin International Sports Centre in Melbourne, the Australian Open will also shed two days off its playing schedule to accommodate the numerous inter-state and international competitors in the 352 position main draw, which also features Under-18's, Over-60's and Bowlers with a Disability disciplines, bringing the event down to a shorter five-day format.
With the sport's premier players in attendance, including men's world number one Leif Selby and women's world number two Karen Murphy, the tournament's playing format will also shift from sets-play to a modified version of timed traditional-play to better reflect the conditions of the upcoming 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
After the significant television exposure generated by the Australian Premier League, which featured more than 18 hours of live content and 15 hours of replayed action on Fox Sports and Sky Sports NZ over four nights, a review of Bowls Australia's broadcast strategy has identified the need to re-assess its investment and focus of the sport's television offering in 2014 and provide content that appeals to more bowlers and non-bowlers alike.
The APL demonstrated its dynamic, fact-paced style appealed to a new segment of sports admirers leading to a decision that next year's Australian Open will not be broadcast on Fox Sports, but instead the final matches will be live-streamed free of charge via bowlsaustralia.com.au.
Bowls Australia Chief Executive Officer Neil Dalrymple said the realignment of broadcast products would result in more engaging content that is enjoyable to regular participants while also presenting the sport to a new audience.
"Bowls Australia has the opportunity to drive progress and produce television products that create more effective engagement with the viewing public, which in turn, will provide benefits to our state and territory associations, clubs and members, through stronger commercial investment," Mr Dalrymple said.
"The Australian Premier League highlighted bowls' widespread appeal across the country with its live broadcast, and we have identified further opportunities for broadcast products more aligned to this progressive direction to increase the profile of the sport moving forward.
"I wish to acknowledge the Victorian Government, City of Darebin and the Darebin City Bowls Club for their continued support of this great event."
Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty said "events like these are a wonderful example of how sporting events can create new opportunities, deliver some fantastic sporting action, cast the international spotlight on Victoria, and provide even more reason for people to come together to enjoy the sports they love.
"The Victorian Government is proud to have supported the Open since 2008," Delahunty added.
The 2014 Australian Open will be staged from Sunday, February 16 to Thursday, February 20, with entry to all the action only $5 per day.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS