Appearance Fees - Honest incentive, or pure greed?
I usually don't start threads that seem doomed to break down into petty bickering and name-calling, but this has been bothering me for a couple days now, and I wanted to address it.
Lately it seems like a lot of people have a bug about appearance fees. For those who aren’t familiar with the way professional tennis works, many top players are offered these “fees” as an incentive to play some tournaments. The promoters consider it an investment, as a bigger name is more likely to draw in fans, thereby increasing their ticket sales. These fees are completely separate from any prize money and non-refundable. (They are often as much, if not more, than the prize money anyway.) If the player loses in the first round, they can still keep their appearance fee. Some players have been known to give back the fee anyways if they perform poorly (Patrick Rafter springs to mind.), but it’s not common practice.
It’s worth noting that almost ALL tournaments offer some form of incentive to players. Players who lose in the first round still get a paycheck. Tournaments provide free first-rate hotel rooms and fancy cars to drive, regardless of how well they play.
In the past few days, I’ve heard a lot of snarky remarks about appearance fees regarding the tournament this week in Beijing, China. It’s true that many of the top names, including Nadal, Moya, Ferrero, Nalbandian, and T. Johansson, made the long trip over to play there when they could have gone to Romania or taken time off, and there’s no arguing that they probably went because they were offered ridiculous appearance fees.
My question is: What’s wrong with that?
Tennis is a business. Of course rankings and titles and all of that are important, but why do we criticize players for also wanting to make money? Just like any athletes, their careers have a relatively short time span, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t make the most of it. Football players are offered contracts worth tens of millions of dollars before they set foot on the field. It’s the same for basketball players and baseball players.
Am I saying that outrageous appearance fees are great and players should only play tournaments that can afford to throw $100,000 at them just for showing up and taking a few photos? Hell no. On the other hand, do I blame them for doing it during slow periods in the season, when there isn’t a more competitive or prestigious tournament to play? Again, hell no.
This is just my opinion. I’m curious to know what other people think about appearance fees. Do you think they should be banned? Do you think they improve the state of tennis by bringing top players into places that would usually go without? Could you not care any less?
"We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." ~ Abraham Lincoln