Live sporting action is an unparalleled experience but perhaps not worth the hassle.
The first of the year’s four Grand Slam tennis events, the Australian Open, will once again see spectators having to cope with a rise both in temperatures and in ticket prices. The cost of watching the top stars of international sport at the arenas in which they perform is an ever-escalating spiral and one in which you begin to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
The official ticket prices for a seat inside the Rod Laver Arena for the 2010 Australian Open start at AUD243 (Rs10,210) on day one. The middle weekend will set you back AUD403 (Rs 16,900), the semi-finals AUS320 (Rs 13,350) and the finals AUD999 (Rs 41,800). Now here’s the catch, the chances of your getting hold of one of these tickets from Tennis Australia is about the same as sipping a cup of Darjeeling tea with Roger Federer in your home in India! They are as rare as a cool evening in Melbourne during the two weeks of the Australian Open. You just don’t see them! So, what you have to do is pay the extra prices that come with a package that includes your hotel room and a ride to the stadium from downtown Melbourne, depending on what level of luxury you wish to stay in.
Here’s a typical range of prices you will find from companies offering such packages. During the first week, a stay in a three-star hotel to include a ticket inside the Rod Laver Arena comes in at around AUD1,275 a night (RS53,400). If you prefer a five-star hotel, that goes up to AUD2,260 (RS94,550).
For the finals, your three-star package starts at AUD3,280 (RS137,225) to the five-star AUD4,895 (205,000). I hasten to add that you have to get yourself to Melbourne in the first place to take advantage of these ‘unbeatable offers!’
Wimbledon 2009 was an outstanding fortnight of tennis for the coffers of the All England Lawn Tennis & Crocquet Club (AELTC) who, despite having invested upwards of US$100 Million for a roof to be placed on top of its famous Centre Court and basically not having to use it to any extent, enjoyed record crowds. A combination of the best British summer for years and the rise of Britain’s Andy Murray, not just to world number 3, but to hot favourite to win Wimbledon 2009, ensured that tickets for tennis were like gold.
Ticket prices reflected the surge of interest in Murray. Before his semi-final against the American, Andy Roddick, which he lost, Centre Court tickets for the anticipated men’s final against the great Roger Federer were being sold on the online black market for £20,000 a seat! That converts to Rs 1.6 million. One particular seller was advertising this seat as a package of four, so the price to watch the final (with Murray in it) for four people could have been a staggering Rs 6.3 million!
Getting a ticket for any day at Wimbledon is like finding a stock in the market that will bring you instant money. Can you be that lucky?
Tickets prices for the men’s singles final (Federer v Roddick) were £100 (RS7,936), the same price as the women’s singles final (Williams v Williams). The problem is that you just cannot get them. The AELTC sold its new debentures for Centre Court in a matter of hours long before the summer arrived. Debenture holders would then have to buy their tickets, but some prefer to cash in on the insatiable demand, and thus sell them at outrageous prices, but where there is a demand there will always be a supply.
If you wanted to watch Sania Mirza in her first round match against Germany’s Ana Lena Groenefeld on Court number 14, an outside court, a ground pass cost just £8 (Rs 636). But would you sleep overnight on a pavement for the privilege? The undeniable fact, though, is that Wimbledon is always sold out. It is a unique event in the British sporting calendar. All the AELTC needs is for the sun to shine and the profiteers start rubbing their hands. Now that there is a roof on Centre Court, there will always be tennis to watch, unlike the 122 previous years, where a total wash-out on one or two days or more was commonplace.
Watching sport on television is not quite the same as being inside the ground, but it is a far more viable prospect, it is more comfortable and you can see a lot more on television, and you have replays in case you weren’t concentrating.
Sure, it has a price tag, but just compare the price of a seat in your own home to a seat at Melbourne Park or Wimbledon. Satellite television brings the top international stars into your living room. If you want to see them, start your calculations with your airfare.
ALAN WILKINS is a TV broadcaster for ESPN Star Sports. INSIDE EDGE will appear every alternate week