On Friday my colleague and I walked by a shop window at lunchtime that displayed a large flat screen televising Roger Federer’s match at Roland Garros. We were immediately struck by the abundance of vacant seats in the stadium during the match.
Granted, it was a Friday afternoon (heaven forbid the French cut out work early on a Friday in May), it’s still the early stages at the French Open, and perhaps most importantly a Paris afternoon without rain is a risky bet this year. But come on, on the court was Roger Federer. The 17-time Grand Slam victor, the winningest player in professional tennis history, a living legend and class act in the sport.
Tickets were practically sold out for the whole tournament, and yet half the seats at Philippe Chatrier court remained empty from no-shows on Friday’s Federer/Benneteau match. I suspect that most of the empty seats were those held by tournament ticket holders, people or companies that plunked down the full 7k€ per seat with hospitality suite access.
But for all those people who don’t have the luxury of attending the French Open at will, for those who may not have the resources to afford entry tickets, let alone box seats, or have access to the manicured clay/grass/hard courts of the various opulent private tennis clubs dotting the Paris region… for those aspiring families in the 93 who see clips of Federer on tv and can only dream of sending their children to a tennis lesson, no less to a prestigious Bollettieri-like training camp… I’m thinking of you.
So Roland Garros, I have a modest proposal. In this age of the sharing economy, and in the spirit of collaborative consumption, why not open up the seats that are abandoned by the no-shows ? The first step could be simply providing a platform that allows ticketholders to voluntarily donate their unused tickets to the cause, in other words, an opt-in system that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. The seats are then offered without charge to the next person on a special privileged waiting list. Coordination and screening of the privileged waiting list could be delegated to a trustworthy organization experienced with underprivileged communities, such as the fine folks over at Ashoka.
Maybe I’m too idealistic, and there will undoubtedly be a variety of objections to overcome the initial static friction to implement something like this. I mean, you cannot even buy French Open merchandise on site at Roland Garros without holding a paid ticket.
But hey, sometimes you have to ask the naive questions. Who knows, this might uncover the next Yannick Noah.