It’s time to pay up, Tennis Australia.
The votes have been cast and news.com.au readers have emphatically sided with the growing number of calls for ballkids at the Australian Open to be paid.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
The controversial issue has quickly become the hottest topic in the opening week of the first Grand Slam on the 2023 calendar.
Fans on social media were in uproar after discovering the ballkids Down Under aren’t paid, they’re instead giving a gift bag, featuring eletronic goodies such as AirPods, and a food allowance.
Tennis superstar Andy Murray added his weight to the conversation following his all-night encounter against Thanasi Kokkinakis.
“If my child was a ball kid for a tournament, they’re coming home at 5am in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that,” Murray said.
“It’s not beneficial for them. It’s not beneficial for the umpires, the officials. I don’t think it’s amazing for the fans. It’s not good for the players.
“We talk about it all the time. It’s been spoken about for years. When you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”
In a poll posted in that story the question was asked: Should ballkids be paid at the Australian Open?
The result was as one-sided as you’ll see. With close to 21,000 votes, 92 per cent of readers responded that the ballkids should be paid. Just like they are at other Grand Slams on the calendar.
Changes were made to the program which sees around 2500 kids take part in an almost year-long selection process with less than one in five selected.
Following the 2008 Australian open, ballkids were reclassified as volunteers, meaning no money had to be paid.
The US Open currently pays ballkids $15 per hour while Wimbledon forks over a flat rate of $351 per week to their ballkids.
It’s not as if the Australian Open is strapped for cash either. Prior to this year’s event Tennis Australia announced the largest prize pool in the history of the tournament was on offer.
A whopping $AUD76.5 million was on the table for those participating, up 3.4 per cent on 2022.
The controversial topic has illicited a huge response from fans with calls only continuing to grow for Tennis Australia to revert back to the old system.
As Murray and Kokkinakis battled it out until 4am, fans watching on couldn’t help but feel for the youngsters.
Journalist Justin Smith labelled it “appalling” that the youngsters weren’t being paid despite having to work under strict conditions.
“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 topic kicked off after it was brought to light on Reddit.
Users were split over the topic on the social media site with some arguing it was nothing short of exploitation, while others declared it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the youngsters and therefore worth more than money.
“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.”