Kiwi Corporate Hospitality – It’s a Little Bit Different by Emily Smart

ASB Championship Tennis

What a delightful treat. Two complimentary corporate tickets to the Auckland ASB women’s open tennis championship in the middle of a beautiful summer. Babysitter sorted, outfit chosen, full breakfast eaten beforehand to soak up excess alcohol, partner in unusually good mood, and a date-like atmosphere in preparation for our big day out.

Now I’m not sure what image you have in mind when I say corporate hospitality, but I’ll take this opportunity to relay my one and only experience which was, suffice to say, an evening of drunken debauchery in an environment of opulence (can nice food and alcohol be described as opulent?)

A Visit to Stamford Bridge

Back in the day, when I worked in Londinium (a  faraway city in a faraway land), the agency I worked for organised a corporate box at Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea vs. I can’t remember at all, and it’s rather inconsequential to the story anyway. I remember feeling like a VIP. We were ushered straight through at the gates rather than queuing with the proletariat. Actually, given the richness of that part of London, coupled with the fact that Chelsea Football Club is now run by an oligarch, forget the proletariat; let’s say queuing with the middle class fans. We were whisked away to a ‘box’. Upon entering, we were greeted with a bulging table of food, alcohol aplenty and even a fridge with ice cold beer. The indoor outdoor flow was great for a cold winter’s evening. Outside, balcony seats awaited us with some of the best views in the house. When it got too cold/boring, we simply retreated back inside and watched the game behind glass with a pork pie and a Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect. One complimentary programme and 6 pints of wine later, I left Stamford Bridge wishing that all my weekends were filled with jollies to corporate events.

Kiwi Hospitality

Anyway, shall we get back to the original story? We arrived at the tennis grounds to a forbidding sky and, quite strangely, a gaggle of old people. Worse still, they were old people who hadn’t bothered to get dressed up for the occasion and their attire was more suited to a 35 km bush walk than attending a top level tennis match on the centre court at the ASB stadium. Being rather myopic and old, none of them was able to notice that I was wearing a new dress, and couldn’t therefore tell me how nice I looked.

We made our way to the corporate hospitality tent. On the way, I spotted a rather grand pub-like tent sponsored by Heineken which was smartly kitted out and managed by a handsome young lad pouring pints. By this time my expectations were high and my alcohol levels low. Then we saw it. The ASB hospitality tent.  What might once have been, in the dim and distant past, a beautiful white ‘marquee’, now stood before me  akin to something a troop of scouts would stay in, rather than a venue for the preferred suppliers and clients of a high street bank. We mounted the steps eagerly, as it was just past 11.30 am and surely time for a small aperitif or a cocktail before our long lunch. I won’t wax lyrical; in short it was pretty damn shoddy to say the least. On offer at the ‘bar’ (a stained white table cloth draped over a bench), we had Jacob’s Crack fizz, a bottle of something purporting to be red wine and an average bottle of white. On the table to my right was some chicken on a stick that had listeria written all over it, and a couple of curled up sarnies. I’ve seen better spreads at Bunning’s sausage sizzle than I saw in the scout tent.

We attempted to circulate and mingle, awaiting a host of some kind to welcome us. It took 5 seconds to mingle which involved me walking to a seat and asking someone if the chair was taken. We sat around awkwardly, sans host, until we drained our glasses of cheap booze and headed for the court.

Anyone  for Tennis?

We sat undercover and watched a couple of matches, whilst gazing longingly at the ‘proper’ hospitality boxes scattered around the court. These people were enjoying a silver service meal, fine wines and appeared to have no interest in the match unfolding before them. I was proper jealous.

Making my way back to the hospitality (ahem) tent to refill my glass, I was disappointed to see that the bar was closed and one solitary dodgy looking sandwich remained on the table; God help anyone who had eaten the chicken. I hurried back to the centre court only to find it was raining, play was suspended and over the loudspeaker some witty official was playing ‘Raindrops keep falling on  my head’ which was, on reflection, a heck of a lot better than Cliff Richard standing up and making a spectacle of himself at Wimbledon some years ago.

Still, I can’t complain and I don’t want to appear ungrateful. When rain stopped play we headed for a long lunch, shared a pizza and had a glass of wine, without any small people asking to be taken to the toilet. So thank you ASB.

Now, does anyone know how I can get freebies for next year’s Heineken championships?

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