Wimbledon embraces the Web, plans online public ballot, FT reports

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 2, 2018 General view during the first round REUTERS/Tony O'Brien/File Photo

Wimbledon is slowly hauling itself into the 21st century. 

The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs the Wimbledon championships, is developing an online ballot for the public to attend the tournament, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar. An official announcement may come this month with the aim of introducing the system in time for next year’s event. 

Currently, the public ballot involves applicants completing a paper form and mailing it along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope – and waiting weeks if not months for a reply. 

Almost a half-million people made the pilgrimage to southwest London last year to attend one of the most prestigious events on the global sports calendar. About 17% of tickets are debentures, and other 10% go to corporate hospitality. Another 1,500 tickets are made available each day – and fans have to form a line, or even camp out overnight, to have a chance of snaring one. 

The All England Club has jealously guarded its traditions over the years – from the ivy-clad walls and manicured lawns to the pots of strawberries and cream, and insisting that players wear almost entirely white clothing. But it’s also shown signs of being prepared to relax its stuffy image. 

In 1997, a giant TV screen was installed on a grass-banked terrace where people would tend to take their picnics. At the time, the All England Club was concerned that the sight and sound of people cheering loudly away from action would detract from the on-court play. 

Now, the terrace, which habitually carries the name of whichever British player happens to be playing well at the time, forms a major part of the Wimbledon experience. For some spectators, just getting a ticket into the grounds to watch the day’s play on that screen is a day well spent. 

And in 2009, a retractable roof was installed on Centre Court, allowing play to continue in bad weather and until the local municipality-imposed curfew of 11pm. A retractable roof over the No. 1 Court is expected to be ready for use in this year’s championships. – Bloomberg


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