The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has announced a series of significant changes for The Championships 2019 and beyond. In the buildup to the official start of the Championships on July 1, builders and staff are busy preparing the grounds and courts to maintain the high standards for which the AELTC prides itself.
No. 1 Court Project
Among the many improvement are a new and fixed retractable roof, an increased capacity of 12,345, the replacement of all seats inside the stadium for spectator comfort, further enhancement to the two-level Walled Garden public plaza and the installation of a living wall either side of the Big Screen facing Aorangi Terrace.
On May 19 there will be a special program of tennis and music to mark the first official deployment of the new roof. With music from Paloma Faith and Joseph Calleja, supported by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Grange Park Opera chorus; there will be three tennis matches featuring John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Lleyton Hewitt and Gorran Ivansevic, with other prominent male and female players to be announced nearer the time. A proportion of ticket proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the charities nominated by participant players, and to “A Roof For All” a new fund for the homeless set up by the Wimbledon Foundation to help support charities in the local area and across London as they tackle this growing need.
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum will celebrate the history of No 1 Court with a dedicated exhibition featuring architectural plans and models from the 1920s through to the present day, an audio-visual wall showcasing hundreds of memorable moments from matches over the years and other features recalling memorable events.
The Estate Dew
Over the last nine months more than 40 projects have been completed in time for this year’s Championships, including the refurbishment of the Members’ Dressing Rooms, used by the competitors, an additional story on the Museum building and a new Members’ Brasserie.
Among other changes, the ground capacity has been increased to 42,000 at any one time and the start time has been moved 30 minutes earlier this year on the outside courts to 11:00 am. The start time remains 1:00 pm on Centre Court and No. 1 Court and 2:00 pm for the Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Singles Qualifying Draw. A tie-break at 12-12 in the final set will apply to all events across Qualifying Gentlemen’s, Ladies’, Mixed and Junior singles and doubles.
Junior Grass Court Strategy
Since many juniors still turn up at Wimbledon having never played on grass, AELTC has drawn up a strategy in collaboration with the LTA to provide more opportunities for juniors to practice and compete on grass at all levels of their development and nurture their desire to compete at Wimbledon and to protect grass court tennis for the future. A new 18&U Grade ITF grass court tournament will take place in Nottingham the week before Grade 1 ITF tournament in Roehampton creating a three-week grass court series culminating with The Junior Championships at Wimbledon for the top 150 juniors in the world. A new international 14&U Grass Court event will be staged in the second week of The Championships from 2022. Further enhancements to the 14&U Road to Wimbledon participation events, taking place across the UK at local, regional and national level, and in India, China, Hong Kong and Japan in 2019, culminating in the Road to Wimbledon Finals at the All England Club in August.
Commercial & Finance
Centre Court Debenture Issue: In March, The All England Lawn Tennis Ground plc announced the issue of up to 2,520 Centre Court debentures for The Championships from 2021 to 2025 inclusive. Next year will mark 100 years since debentures were first introduced in the 1920s to fund the purchase of part of the Company’s present Grounds and the building of Centre Court. Since then, the proceeds from subsequent debenture issues have provided funding for many significant improvements to the facilities at the Grounds. Applications close on 10 May and it is anticipated to raise £160m net of VAT and costs.
New Official Suppliers: Last week, the AELTC announced OPPO as the first Official Smartphone partner and first-ever Asian partner of The Championships. The five-year agreement, which begins this year, is an opportunity for both brands to grow their presence in key developing markets. OPPO will also play a significant role in support of the professional grass court season and the promotion of the AELTC’s grass court strategy, which aims to provide enhanced opportunities for juniors to compete on grass courts at all stages of their development. In addition, as announced last year, 2019 will mark the first year of the AELTC’s five-year partnership with American Express as Official Payments partner.
Online Ballot: From The Championships 2020, applications for the Public Ballot will be online. Ensuring the accessibility of Wimbledon tickets for spectators of all ages and geographical locations remains a primary focus and importantly the Ballot will retain the principle that applications may be submitted at any time during the application window; there is no advantage to being the fastest to apply. Register for myWimbledon on wimbledon.com to be notified of application dates.
Wimbledon Rematch 1980: The concept of immersive theatre and cinema is being brought to sport, through the launch of ‘Wimbledon Rematch 1980’. Set in a recreated All England Club of the 1980s, this immersive experience will allow ticket-holders to relive all the drama and glory of The Championships 1980, including Borg and McEnroe’s famous tie-break. Visit wimbledonrematch.com to find out more.
The total prize money fund for The Championships 2019 will be £38m, an 11.8% increase on £34m last year. The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Champions will each receive £2.35m, increased from £2.25m in 2018. Singles prize money for players competing in the Qualifying Competition and first three rounds of Main Draw will increase by more than 10%. Since 2011, first round prize money has increased by almost four-fold, from £11,500 to £45,000. The Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Doubles will receive an increase of 14.2%, while Mixed Doubles will increase by 6.2%. The prize money paid for Wheelchair events will increase by 47% through a combination of a double digit increase for the existing Wheelchair events and new prize money for the Quad Wheelchair events that have been added this year.
Chairman’s Special Guests
The Chairman’s Special Guests in 2019 are Ann Jones, celebrating 50 years since winning the Ladies’ Singles title in 1969 (she also won the Mixed Doubles title that year with Fred Stolle) and Rod Laver, also celebrating 50 years since winning in 1969 (Gentlemen’s Singles Champion 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969). This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Rod achieving his second calendar Grand Slam, when he won all four Grand Slam singles titles in one year.
This year’s artist is Luis Morris, a British artist and member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He was Championships’ Artist in 2007, painting and drawing the construction of the Centre Court roof. Over the past three years, the AELTC again commissioned Morris to document the construction of the No.1 Court roof in a series of pen drawings.
This year, to bring this creative piece of work to a close, Morris has been commissioned to portray The No.1 Court Celebration on 19 May in an oil painting. Morris will be attending the event with his sketch book and camera to record details to use as inspiration over the following six months. He will also visit The Championships this year to conclude his pen series with a final view of the exterior of the completed No.1 Court.
Sustainability and Environmental Impact
AELTC is making sustainability a key focus in the running of The Championships and the Foundation. The changes being implemented in 2019 include the launch of the first 100% recyclable water bottle from Evian, official water of The Championship, the use of fewer plastic bags and the deployment of staff in discarding waste in appropriate bins.
Philip Brook, Chairman of the AELTC, commented: “As I approach the end of my tenure as Chairman of the AELTC and The Championships, I have been proud to have witnessed a period of significant change over the past decade. The investment we have made in our Estate, in the grass court season, in facilities for all of our guests both onsite and around the world, in prize money, in the surplus to the LTA, and in our staff, has resulted in strong foundations for the future of The Championships and of our sport as we plan for a new period of leadership. The enhancements announced for 2019, in particular the successful completion of the No.1 Court Project, continue to reflect our confidence in the future and in our strategy of continuous improvement, to maintain Wimbledon’s place at the pinnacle of the sport.”
The decisions taken by the AELTC are underpinned by its declared ethos of long term sustainable investment for the benefit of all its guests to ensure that The Championships continues to maintain its position as the world’s premier tennis tournament. However, as its profits grow to match its popularity the AELTC needs to ensure that thousands of ardent tennis who cannot afford the eye-watering prices for tickets do not find that only the rich elite from around the world can enjoy one of the world’s best annual sporting events.
KEY DATES: THE 133rd CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Tuesday 18 June: Tennis Sub-Committee meeting to decide wild cards.
- Monday 24 – Thursday 27 June: Qualifying Competition, Bank of England Sports Club.
- Wednesday 26 June: Seeds announced.
- Friday 28 June, 10 am: The Draw, Main Interview Room.
- Saturday 29 June and Sunday 30 June: Player Media Availabilities (players and times TBC) – please email [email protected] with requests.
- Sunday 30 June, 8 am: The Queue opens.
- Monday 1 – Sunday 14 July: The Championships 2019.