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 #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon