Peter Allan Williams
Writer and broadcaster for half a century. Now watching from the sidelines although verbalising thoughts on www.reality three days a week.

Whatever cost of living crisis Britain is currently undergoing and is predicted to encounter more of under the new and higher taxing Labour government, it appears the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) is immune.

This most famous of institutions, currently hosting The Championships for the 137th time, has in the past few months announced plans to convert the former next door Wimbledon Park golf course into another grand tennis centre with 38 grass courts for competition and community use.

Oh, and the prize money for The Championships has this year reached a staggering 50 million pounds, a hundred million of our dollars, albeit spread across 14 competitions, with the quaintly titled Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Singles taking 70 per cent of that.

(Even if you’re good enough to make the 128 strong fields for qualifying for The Championships proper, and you lose in the first round of qualifying, you are still paid 15,000 pounds.)

Visiting for a day provides ample evidence that this annual fortnight is a money-making machine.

The AELTC has annual revenue of around 350 million pounds, about half of which comes from TV rights, with 60 million from the BBC.

The country’s public broadcaster, paid for by all television owners through their licence fee, regards the Wimbledon rights payment as a bargain.

The tournament is sold out months in advance – and that includes general grounds admission which entitles you to only watch play on the outside courts or on the Hill in front of a big screen.

There is though the opportunity to take a chance in The Queue – yes it has upper case letters in its official title. It means you follow one of the great British traditions and stand patiently in a line hundreds of metres long in the hope that eventually you will be admitted. I’m told that eventually most are successful if they have the staying power.

A ticket to the grounds starts out at 30 pounds for the first week dropping to 20 quid as the tournament progresses and there are fewer games to watch on the outside courts.

But if you score a ticket to Centre Court for the final weekend, it’s 275 pounds. However there are only 14,979 seats available and demand outstrips supply so much that you can take a risk on an unauthorized website like Viagogo and pay over 2500 pounds and hope your QR code gets past the scanners at the gate.

We were lucky. My wife registered for the ballot late last year and was advised in February we could have two tickets to Centre Court on the first Friday. At 140 pounds they were about the same as an All Black test or a Crowded House concert – but you don’t get many chances to watch tennis at Wimbledon.

Then we were doubly lucky because the first match of that day was the defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against American Francis Tiafoe. It was a classic five setter with Alcaraz coming from behind to win. Value for money, it’s some of the best sporting entertainment I’ve ever seen.

We had grand plans for a sit-down lunch in one of the complex’s five restaurants before the tennis started. Despite trying to book online two weeks before leaving home, there were no seats available.

So we took the option of the picnic instead. Magnificent. Salads, cold meat, terrine, bread, falafel and strawberries packed in a souvenir backpack complete with a picnic blanket for sitting on the grass on the Wimbledon Hill. Except that it was cold and raining so we had to find some shelter under the Centre Court stands.

That was a three figure cost, too, but we get to keep the branded backpack and blanket!

It also means we weren’t quite as tempted to spend up large in the Wimbledon Shop where labelled merchandise from fridge magnets to Ralph Lauren bomber jackets can set you back anything from four pounds to more than 250.

By the time we left for the day, there was a queue to get in.

The public demand to watch high level sports events in Britain shows no sign of waning. This is high season with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone another sold-out event, no doubt helped by British drivers taking the first three places on the grid.

In two weeks the Open golf championship is played at remote Troon on the west coast of Scotland. When I first went to the open nearly 40 years ago at nearby Turnberry you could rock up on the day and pay a modest fee to join the throng. Even at the height of Tiger mania in 2005 at St Andrews we bought general admission tickets on the day.

Nowadays the appetite for the tournament is so huge the R and A, who run the Open, hold a ballot for tickets too – despite the effort required to get there.

There’s an old saying that people will always pay for quality.

Apart from what we saw on court, Wimbledon reeks of quality and what the marketers would call a superior customer experience, with easy to find facilities and information. I expect the same at Troon.

With the advantages of history and heritage, not to mention a sizeable population still with money in their bank accounts, Wimbledon, the Grand Prix and the Open seem immune to this country’s economic woes.

But then maybe the sports fans think it’s better to spend their money now before the new government decides to go after it with its new tax regime.

This article was originally published on the author’s Substack.

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