Australian Open news: ‘Where is Peng Shuai’ T-shirts now allowed as organisers make U-turn

Where Is Peng Shuai T-Shirts at the Australian Open

Spectators at the Australian Open are welcome to wear T-shirts supporting Peng Shuai, tournament director Craig Tiley has said.

Organisers have been heavily criticised after a woman wearing a “Where is Peng Shuai” T-shirt was ejected from the event last week, with Martina Navratilova branding the move “cowardly” and accusing Tennis Australia of “capitulating” to China.

There has been major concern inside and outside tennis for the well-being of the former world doubles No 1 since she disappeared from public life in November after making allegations on social media about a senior Chinese official.

Peng has since made several public appearances but there remain serious question marks regarding her freedom and the WTA has suspended all tournaments in China.

Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia and Australian Open tournament director, told the PA news agency the issue was not with the T-shirt but intent to disrupt the tournament.

He said: “We were on the journey at the very beginning with the WTA and that’s because we’re well connected in the region. We agree with the WTA’s position.

“However, coming onto the site we have some terms and conditions that are pretty clear and that is, if you are coming on site with the purpose of disrupting the safety and comfort of fans, you’re not welcome. But if you want to wear a T-shirt that says ‘Where’s Peng Shuai?’, you can come on site, that’s fine.

“There was a suspicion around the motivation of that individual coming on site but we’ve since contacted that person and told her that she’s welcome to come on site, she’s welcome to wear a T-shirt, but not bring a banner, because you can’t bring banners on site.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with a political or commercial statement. Our security people are trained to take a common sense approach, and I think that’s in the interest of everyone.”

Fans wearing Peng Shuai T-shirts were filmed entering Melbourne Park on Tuesday.

Having kept a very low profile in the aftermath of Novak Djokovic’s deportation, Tiley has been more visible in recent days.

Tennis Australia came under fire for its role in pushing for exemptions for unvaccinated players to enter the country, but Tiley dismissed suggestions the fiasco had damaged the tournament’s reputation.