As a tennis buff, I occasionally enjoy watching tennis on television. Usually the venues are plastered with billboard ads and corporate sponsorship signage. Virtually everything you can see is covered with a logo or corporate brand of some type. All this commercialism certainly takes away from the event itself.
However, Wimbledon, is the great exception. Centre Court at Wimbledon is basically free of corporate logos and ads — on the playing surface or in the grandstands. Those obnoxious rotating signs that are ubiquitous in the United States at pro sports events? Not a single one at Wimbledon.
As tennis writer L. John Wertheim put it, “During breaks in the action, note that there is no music, no sponsored dot races on the scoreboard, no unnaturally peppy cheerleaders or mascots air-cannoning T-shirts provided by still another sponsor. At no time will you hear the phrase, ‘Brought to you by …”
Moreover, Wimbledon administrators have passed up bigger television rights fees in England to keep the tournament on BBC, a publicly-funded network that doesn’t air commercials. Unlike the other major professional tennis tournaments that start on the weekend to maximize television revenue, Wimbledon starts on a Monday and organizers have kept the tradition of taking the middle Sunday off, when interest in the tournament is beginning to peak.
Access to the tournament at Wimbledon is easier than it is at any other major sports event. Unlike our Super Bowl, where only the wealthiest individuals and corporate hot shots can attend in person, the All England Club that hosts Wimbledon makes 6000 grounds passes and 500 Centre Court tickets available to anyone who walks up and stands in line. Tickets go at face value (around $80).
Wimbledon’s Centre Court doesn’t even have luxury suites. Don’t tell the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones that, he might faint. A sports marketing consultant would quickly identify a boatload of money that Wimbledon organizers are leaving on the table.
While Wimbledon undoubtedly has some unsavory elitist aspects to it, the fact is it’s the most fan-friendly major sporting event in many respects.
“It all leads to one of sports’ great ironies,” says Wertheim. “Wimbledon has a reputation for patrician elegance, even snobbishness. In truth, it’s the most populist and least mercenary sporting event going.”
In the United States, where everything that happens in professional sports seems to have a sponsor attached to it (including pitching changes in Major League Baseball), it’s refreshing that greed hasn’t overtaken Wimbledon. And that’s a big reason why I thoroughly enjoy “breakfast at Wimbledon” every July.
As Wertheim concludes, “Maybe the moral for sports properties is this: Sure, you can make money from selling your soul. But there’s also value in hanging on to it.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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