French Open Tennis: 1928 – ?

Most sports fans will have shared Roger Federer’s delight when he won his first French Open title today and so became only the sixth male player to win singles titles at all four Grand Slams.

Who might be the next player to achieve such a feat? Actually, there is a chance it will never be repeated in the same way because the French Open itself is said to be under threat.

There has been speculation in Spanish media that the new venue in Madrid could replace Roland-Garros as the venue for the Grand Slam played on clay. It was noticeable that the French organisers rushed to announce plans for developing their venue, including a retractable roof and new show court.

In an interview with Le Monde, the director of the French Open said he didn’t think the Madrid tournament posed a real danger because “what makes the tournament is its history, which cannot be bought”.

Tradition is immensely valuable for a sports venue because fans and athletes remember great encounters from their childhood. The dreams fostered by those experiences linger for many years so that the idea of moving an event can seem like sacrilege.

Traditional calendar events comprise part of the core script of sport: showpiece tournaments and finals which are held at the same venue or venues at the same time each year. Examples include national football cup finals, Formula 1 Grand Prix, cricket test matches and Grand Slam tennis tournaments. With interest from top athletes, fans and broadcasters virtually guaranteed, these are some of the most economically successful events in sport.

A separate category of sports competition is the franchise event, which is allocated by rightsholders to a venue and organising team based on a bidding process. Among these are the FIFA World Cup and many other individual sport world championships.

Nowadays the organisers of calendar events are increasingly facing bidding competitions. Formula 1 rightsholders, buoyed by the financial success of the series, have encouraged ambitious new entrants to build venues and challenge the incumbent hosts. For this reason the long-established Grand Prix in Britain and France have been threatened, among others. Similarly, the England and Wales Cricket Board instituted a bidding process for hosting financially lucrative test matches, resulting in a recent match against the West Indes being held at a new ground in Durham. When ticket sales were poor the choice of venue was criticised.

Although abandoning established venues for new markets is sometimes essential – no Arsenal supporter would now question the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium - nevertheless there are significant risks. Owners of sports events can ill-afford to alienate their core market.

There is little hard evidence that the International Tennis Federation is about to abandon the French Open in favour of Madrid but managers of all established sports venues would be well-advised to make sure that the memory of a capacity crowd rising to acclaim the great Roger Federer is not the only reason to maintain the status quo.

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2 Comments
07

Jun
2009

Appadore

French open should never move out of Paris.

13

Jul
2009

Tennis Website

That would be an utter disaster. I have yet to travel to Roland Garros and now I am more inclined to very quickly. The way that the Grand Slams are set up is more than tradition, it is history. There should be no changes the current set upand Madrid will not take its place.

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