Australian Open 2023: Ballkids not getting paid controversy rages on, Tennis Australia

Controversy erupted at the Australian Open earlier in the week when fans discovered the ballkids are not being paid for their services.

Around 2500 kids apply to be ballkids every year, with less than one in five of them actually successful.

Those who do make the cut are then working under strict conditions and under torrid weather conditions that Melbourne throws up in January.

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Social media users were aghast at the discovery that instead of receiving monetary compensation, the youngsters are instead given freebies and effectively work for the love of the game and the experience that comes with it.

But calls continue to grow for the Australian Open to open its expansive wallet and pony up for the kids who sometimes cop the wrath of angry stars.

Prior to the tournament getting underway, it was announced the prize pool on offer for the world’s best players was the biggest ever seen Down Under.

A whopping prize pool of $AUD76.5 million was on the table for those participating, up 3.4 per cent on 2022.

In comparison to the Australian Open, ballkids working at the US Open are paid $15 per hour while at Wimbledon they’re given a flat rate of $351 per week.

Journalist Justin Smith led his voice to the call for change and for the Australian Open to revert back to 2008 when they were paid before being reclassified as volunteers.

“Are we in a Dickens novel or something? Come on. Pay the kids,” Smith said on Channel 7.

“I’m shocked that they didn’t pay them. I think it devalues them appallingly. They should start forking out as soon as possible … I really do, it’s devaluing them.”

Broadcaster Amanda Rose added: “Essentially, I think it conditions children at a young age that the experience is worth more than being paid. For girls in particular, I think it’s really important to actually say, ‘no, (we’re) worth this money … It’s not a charity event.

“You don’t want them going for a job in their 20s and being told that it is for the experience, and they are not getting paid. So they should get paid.”

The controversial issue was brought to light on Reddit with users split over the topic with many believing it was nothing short of exploitation.

“How is this not child exploitation?” one user asked.

“It isn’t unreasonable to suggest the ballkids get paid for their time,” said another.

“It’s the sports version of artists getting paid in exposure.”

Not everyone thinks that it’s such a big deal, however.

One Reddit user in response to the thread said: “Volunteering can be problematic when there’s implicit pressure or coercion to perform labour voluntarily, producing profit for an organisation that the individual doesn’t get to share in.

“There is no implicit pressure on ballkids to work for free.

“No one needs to be a ballkid at the Australian Open for exposure or career purposes.

“Kids jump at the chance because it’s an awesome opportunity – there’s no exploitation here, move along.”

Another user said “the kids are tennis crazy – (they) love the experience.”

The merchandise that the kids get was also a central point in many responses, with one saying: “they get to keep a lot of cool stuff given to them by Australian Open organisers – calling this child exploitation is an insult to the real exploitation that goes on overseas.”

“Maybe focus on that first.”

Ballkids have been at the centre of attention early in this year’s Open, with Rafael Nadal losing a racquet to a ballkid mistakenly taking away the one he was using to be restrung.

“I need the racquet back, ballboy take my racquet,” Nadal said.

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