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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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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