Ball Boys and ball girls at the service of the French Open for 50 years

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Affiche dédiée à l'exposition photos "Roland Garros à la BNP" à Paris Auteuil, 1988 - Archives historiques BNP Paribas

Affiche dédiée à l'exposition photos "Roland Garros à la BNP" à Paris Auteuil, 1988 - Archives historiques BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas has been a partner of the French Tennis Federation since 1973 and is an active sponsor and major player in the French Open, better known as the Roland Garros tournament. The bank is involved in all aspects of the tournament, and notably the recruitment, training and work of ball boys and ball girls.

The bank and BBGs

The involvement of young people came to be symbolised in the organisation of ball boys and ball girls (BBGs). The organisation of BBGs was established in 1974 by Ridha Bensalha, who had joined the French Tennis Federation (FFT) two years earlier. BBG positions were initially reserved exclusively to young people from the Ile-de-France region, before being extended in 2000 to all young FFT licence holders.

Each year, 2,000 children sign up for the selection days, and their number is growing steadily. BBGs are selected at seven sites across France, rewarding young FFT licence holders.

Some 220 young people aged 12-16 are chosen each year based on physical qualities such as speed, stamina, skill and endurance. People skills are also key, as BBGs spend the three weeks of the tournament interacting as part of a community.

Frontpage of the BBG notebook, BNP Paribas Historical Archives, reference 117AH217
Frontpage of the BBG notebook, BNP Paribas Historical Archives, reference 117AH217

Part of a team of 10 to 12 people headed by a team captain, BBGs receive their daily schedule at a meeting the evening before, depending on the next day’s matches. Only the best teams are picked for the main courts, such as Suzanne Lenglen, Philippe Chatrier and Court No. 1. While all BBGs participate in the qualifying phases of the tournament, only about 50 of them are selected for main-draw matches. This second selection process is based on criteria such as good ball skills, exemplary behaviour, good conduct and on-court aptitude. Naturally, being selected for Roland Garros does not entitle BBGs to compete in other national and international tournaments.

Roland Garros  at the BNP. Exhibition organized with the support of  La revue Tennis de France 1985 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Roland Garros at the BNP. Exhibition organized with the support of La revue Tennis de France 1985 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives, reference 2AF13
Poster dedicated to the exhibition Roland Garros at the BNP in Paris Auteuil, 1988 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Poster dedicated to the exhibition Roland Garros at the BNP in Paris Auteuil, 1988 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives, reference 2AF33

BBG at the French Open : a memorable experience

At the end of the tournament, each BBG gets to keep one pair of shoes, two pairs of socks, two pairs of shorts, two shirts and one tracksuit. These tangible mementoes supplement the marvellous visual memories they take home from the championships.

The creation of the “We are Ballos” platform in 2021 is part of the wonderful history of ball boys and ball girls, a human experience that is never forgotten. And what you get out of it is for life!

Advertising poster for a competition, showing a BBG, 2012 - Référence 5AF1326, BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Advertising poster for a competition, showing a BBG, 2012 – Référence 5AF1326, BNP Paribas Historical Archives

BNP and Roland Garros, a long history

The first French Tennis Championships were held in 1891, but it was not until 1971 that the French Tennis Federation (FFT) and Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) established a close relationship. That year, BNP became the only bank present on the grounds of Roland Garros with a BNP caravan where people could cash cheques.
Also in 1973, the FFT and BNP signed a partnership that notably provided for the first tarpaulins with the BNP logo at the back of the court. In the early 1980s, the rising popularity of the sport generated by French player Yannick Noah’s victory in 1983 and the explosion in the number of members brought the bank closer to the sport. A BNP branch was opened at the stadium, the courts were graced by the bank’s colours and even the outfits of the BBGs were styled by the bank. The FFT benefits from favourable loans for modernising the infrastructure. For their part, FFT members and clubs benefit from preferential rates.
With the merger of BNP and Paribas in 2000, the partnership with the FFT was renewed. The Group’s involvement has never wavered.

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