The highly successful BNP Paribas Primrose Challenger, held in the Bordeaux region of France just before Roland Garros, is already cancelled for 2021.
It’s the second straight year it won’t be held, More than 30,000 fans attended the 2019 edition, won by Lucas Pouille.
You can only hope that it’s not a harbinger of things to come – from the top level on down. The pandemic has wreaked havoc even with the finances of events that are well-supported, like this one.
You can only imagine what it’s doing to those on more fragile financial ground.
It feels as though there will be more Primrose Challengers to come.
2020 cancelled early, but 2021 even earlier
The 2020 edition of the Challenger was cancelled fairly quickly. If you note the date above, it was only about 10 days after the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells was called off.
When they called off the 2020 edition, the Primrose organizing committee cited potential health risks for all involved. But they also outlined the economic risk in going forward with the necessary investments given the significant uncertainty at the time.
The tournament hoped to see fans in 2021 in a more “serene” context.
Fast forward nine months, and the context is no more serene
Primrose a well-sponsored event
In cancelling the 2021 edition this early, the tournament pointed to the restrictions on holding events at all (even six months in advance). It also cited the “likely budgetary consequences”.
Again, the notion of the financial risk involved in preparing to host the event, given the uncertainty, is real. “We prefer to focus our efforts right away on the 2022 edition, with the firm determination to reinstate our event in the local sporting and economic landscape,” was the statement.
The tournament was to be held from May 10-16, 2021.
A top-level Challenger
It should be noted that the landscape for smaller tournaments – at least men’s tournaments – in France is quite unlike in many other countries.
Many are staples in their regions, supported both by sponsors and by the better-ranked players in their country.
Pouille’s appearance in 2019 was just one of many by the more well-known players since its 2008 debut. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also played the event in 2019 to get some match play ahead of Roland Garros.
The Challenger had planned to raise its level in 2020 – becoming a “Challenger 125”. It was to up its prize money nearly 25,000 Euros, to more than 137,000 Euros in total.
Primrose a regional success story
Despite drawing 25-30,000 fans every year, the Primrose is not dependant on attendance. According to this story, ticket sales make up just 10 per cent of its budgeted revenues.
Main sponsor BNP Paribas supplies 15 per cent of the budget for the event.
But it’s very much a local operation. More than 250 companies in the area make up some two-thirds of the budget. Some 400-600 meals are served on site throughout the week.
In other words, it’s everything you want a Challenger event to be. And it has sponsorship support that would be the envy of most tournaments – even many of the 250s.
But it can’t afford the risk amid such uncertainty – even this far ahead of time. Nor it is willing to use the word “postpone” and attempt to find a date later in 2021.