Should Wimbledon Aim To Be More Contemporary?

By Hanya El Ghatany

One of my favourite times of the year is Wimbledon. I genuinely like and look forward to the grass season. From eating fresh strawberries and cream and getting sunburned on Henman Hill, to the cheers of the audience on Centre Court and staying as late as 9 P.M. with the sun still out, to heatwaves followed by strong summer showers. If anything, Wimbledon serves as a hint that the British summer has arrived in earnest. 

Today’s world is unquestionably digital. More quickly than any other innovation in human history, digital technologies have transformed civilizations. More than 63 % of the world’s total population now use the internet, except perhaps Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world.  Indeed, the oldest of them all retains the oldest ticketing system of them all. As time has gone on, I’ve grown weary of Wimbledon’s somewhat old-fashioned and retrograded ticketing system. I respect that some things are preserved because of historical ramifications. Other regulations, on the other hand, are just outdated. As Wimbledon prepares to run the yearly ballot, I decided to write down things about the system that I appreciate and things about the system that could use some tweaking.  

Wimbledon Courts Explained 

I realize that some of the readers have never been to Wimbledon and as such, I will briefly explain the structure of the courts so you have an idea of what I’m talking about. The grounds at Wimbledon have a total of 55 tennis courts, including the 19 grass Championship courts that are used for The Championships each year. 

The Show Courts 

The show courts comprise Centre Court, and Courts 1, 2, 3, 12 and 18. The famous Centre Court is the largest court at Wimbledon. Both the singles finals for men and women are played on Centre Court. The second-largest stadium is No. 1 Court.  No. 2 Court has earned the nickname “The Graveyard of Champions” because it has seen the defeat of many great champions, including Serena Williams and Pete Sampras over the years. You might have heard of Court No. 3 where Kim Clijsters invited a male fan in one of her white skirts and asked him to play a point against her. Courts 12 and 18 give you the most breath-taking views of the Championship grounds. You might also remember Court 18, where the longest ever tennis match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2011 was scheduled and lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes and spanned 3 days. 

The Outside Courts 

The outside courts are basically Courts 4 – 17 and Court 19.  

The Ticketing System  

The only courts that are actively sold in the ballot, in person or online, are Centre Court, Courts 1 and 2, and some seats in court 3. The rest are on a first come, first serve basis through the ground pass. Now let’s discuss the ticketing system and see what I’m appreciating and what I’d like to see tweaking…

1. Appreciate: Wimbledon Ballot

The first way to secure tickets for Wimbledon is to enter your name in the public ballot. It is, as the name implies, a ballot, a lottery if you may. The likelihood of actually winning tickets is very low. I’m familiar with both those who succeed on their first attempt and those who keep trying every year but are unsuccessful. The verdict is appreciative because it is to a full extent a very fair first attempt at distributing tickets. It is a lottery at the end of the day, and everyone has an equal chance of winning. They do not sell all the tickets at either the first or second ballot. Hence, the fairness. If you fail to win the ballot, there are still other ways to get your tickets. They also have an overseas Ballot Entry Form for fans who do not reside in the United Kingdom.

2. Tweak: Ballot Policies

The procedure is also pretty straightforward. You must only submit one application per household. If successful, you must not sell or transfer your tickets and The AELTC designates the particular day, court, and seat. These cannot be modified. Your precise seat numbers won’t be communicated to you until just before the tournament. If you win the Public Ballot or the Second Ballot, you could end up watching the Championships on Centre Court, Court No. 1, or Court No. 2. You can decline the tickets and they will be re-balloted in the second wave if you are unable to attend on the day you are offered. The main problem is here. If you apply for the ballot and are accepted, but don’t like your tickets, that’s it. You only submit ONE myWimbledon application. If you win them and return them, you won’t be able to purchase any of the newly released tickets through myWimbledon. This is somewhat unjust. If someone is unable to arrive at the day the ballot assigned them, I think they should be able to buy tickets again using the same account. After all, they never entered the grounds using those tickets or that account. The fact that the court and seats are not revealed is acceptable at this stage as this assists the ballot to serve its intended purpose. The former policy, however, requires tweaking. 

3. Appreciate: Ground Passes

I mentioned above that the only courts that are actively sold in the ballot, in person or online, are Centre Court, Courts 1 and 2, and some seats in Court 3. The rest are on a first come, first serve basis. First come, first serve basis are decided first by the ground pass and second, by court queue. Both appreciated. The ground pass costs about 27 pounds which are relatively cheap considering that it gives you access to all the action happening on the outside courts. How do you access the outside courts? You queue. At every court, they have guards managing the queue and allowing people to join the court at the change of ends or between matches and NEVER during a tie-break. Pretty much the same rule applies everywhere else. All you need to do is check where your favourite player is scheduled to play and go early to grab a good seat – if you can, of course…

4. Tweak: How To Get Grounds Passes 

I added the sneaky “if you can” because the tricky part that might need a bit of tweaking is how you can actually get your grounds pass. You might have heard of the famous Wimbledon queue which I will talk about in just a bit. Wimbledon does not differentiate between people who are queueing to attend show courts and fans who just want grounds passes. Meaning it is one queue for all those people. Why does it need tweaking? I do not believe there is any necessity for fans who plan on getting a grounds pass to go as early as 5am and queue with the rest of the folk. This is especially the case because play on the outside courts start at about 11am. The queue itself begins to move at around 10am! 50% of the time I queued for the 2022 Championships, I missed the first set for the 11am play. I don’t believe that this is fair. There is also no need for one to opt to use the night bus or Uber for longer duration or more money just to arrive too early for a grounds pass. One way this could be solved is using their website. Wimbledon could decide to just sell grounds passes online, considering that most days, they don’t run out. This will remove quite a lot of headaches for the organisers. They only have to deal with show court goers, the queue will actually move a lot faster, and fans who bought the grounds passes online will be able to join the courts in good time to grab a good seat. I know for a fact that Australian Open sells grounds passes on the website. If absolutely necessary, the Championships could decide to sell a good portion of the grounds passes online AND leave some for the queue to keep the tradition alive. This would give the fans the chance to attend their 11am matches and others to “enjoy” the queue experience…

5. Appreciate: The Wimbledon Queue

The Centre Court, Court No. 1, or Court No. 2 might be yours provided you have the fortitude to wait in the renowned Wimbledon Queue. You will need to join “The Queue” if you are not fortunate enough to be receiving the top-notch Wimbledon hospitality or to be the lucky winner of a ticket in the ballot. Wimbledon consistently sells more tickets than any other significant international athletic event. Nowhere else does a day visitor need to start lining up early to get a ticket, or, if you’re unlucky, not receive a ticket at all. Needless to say, it is important that ushers inform queue members if they are getting court tickets or grounds passes, which in all fairness they do based on the number. Undoubtedly not novel advise, but unquestionably among the most crucial things to be aware of before joining the queue is that you will need to get there quite early. Early means before 5am when not all trains, buses, or tubes are running. For the sought-after Centre Court, Court 1, and Court 2 tickets they keep for day visitors, you’ll need to be there sharpish. Each person who enters the queue each day receives a Queue Card. Each person’s precise position in the queue is represented by one of these cards. Don’t rely on having a friend pick one up for you because they can only be distributed to attendees. When entering the grounds, the Queue Cards are once again examined. Each day, cards have new dates and numbers. The entire organisation is extremely strict but traditionally appreciated.  

6. Tweak: Policy Of Buying Tickets Online

I managed to see Roger Federer’s historic last Wimbledon match, a Rafael Nadal match AND the Novak Djokovic dramatic 2022 match against Jannick Sinner by buying the tickets from the Wimbledon website, guess what, the day BEFORE play! Not a lot of people know this piece of information. While it is appreciated that myWimbledon allows fans to purchase tickets until the last day and allocate one chance of a pair of tickets to each household, the system of releasing tickets needs a bit of tweaking. It is 2022 and Wimbledon still does not announce WHEN the tickets are released. There is no particular rule. If you want to attend a match on a given Friday, you will have to refresh the website like your life depends on it for a couple of days before. In order to get my hands on the Federer tickets, I had to spend an entire day of panicking on the website hoping it didn’t break or I that I didn’t miss the second that they were released. A complete waste of time. To make things easier, I believe it would be more practical to announce that the remaining tickets will be released on a specific day and time and open a queue on a first come, first serve basis.  

7. Tweak: Allow Fans To Select Their Seats

At the final stage of selling tickets, it should be fair to assume that fans should be able to select their seats based on the prices assigned. They’re not. At no stage during the Wimbledon selling process do fans get to open the website and navigate the court and decided if the seat available is worth the money assigned, unlike other majors. Even during the final stages of selling tickets, fans are allocated random seats at designated prices. That is the rule even for queue goers. If I’m at the beginning of the queue, whether online or in person, there should be some room for me to choose better seats considering I arrived first.  

8. Appreciate: The Resale Of Show Court Tickets

Around 4 or 5 o’clock, people hang around close to Henman hill. Some ticket holders from Centre Court, No. 1 Court, and No. 2 Court, will depart before play is finished on each day of competition. Some of those who depart early will be thoughtful enough to give back their tickets for sale. The general public can then purchase these tickets for far less than their face value and sit in the allotted seat to watch show court competition for the remainder of the day. These proceeds go to charity. This implies that a select few lucky individuals may be able to obtain premium last-minute tickets to see the conclusion of some of the day’s most important games. These tickets cost £10 for No. 1 and No. 2 Court or £15 for Centre Court. I watched Ons Jabeur on Court 1 for just £10.  

Finally: There are other ways to buy tickets 

Ticketmaster is another option for purchasing tickets. Tickets for Centre Court and show courts are often made available a few days in advance. This is by far the most practical method of purchasing tickets. It’s also the simplest way to purchase tickets for Wimbledon. Prior to the start of the performance, tickets for Centre Court and Court 3 normally go on sale there. Day one Centre Court admission costs £60. Day three of the men’s finals will cost up to £210. It is important to keep in mind that Wimbledon tickets sell out as soon as they are made available. Therefore, log in quickly and move like your life depends on it.  

Debentures are a good choice if you want more private seats. The All-England Lawn Tennis Club raises money in this manner to cover its capital expenses at Wimbledon. What are tickets for Wimbledon Debentures? In essence, they serve as a financial tool that enables you to watch Wimbledon from either the Centre Court or Court No. 1 for the time that you hold them, as well as to look to sell individual match-day tickets at any price you consider appropriate. 

What is Viagogo for tickets to Wimbledon? It’s a secondary website that Wimbledon does not officially recognise, but it serves as a marketplace where Wimbledon tickets can be bought and sold by people. It goes without saying that the prices listed on this website are more than the usual price. There are a few other such secondary marketplaces where people can purchase or sell these tennis tickets as well, but one must be cautious because there might be legal repercussions associated with this. 

***

And so there it is. I listed what I like and what I do not like about the Wimbledon ticketing system. Agree? Disagree? Either way, let me know what you think!

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