Exclusive: Wimbledon considers changes to The Queue amid drop in attendances

·4 min read
Exclusive: Wimbledon to consider changes to The Queue amid drop in attendances - BELINDA JAO
Exclusive: Wimbledon to consider changes to The Queue amid drop in attendances - BELINDA JAO

Wimbledon will consider making its famous queue partly virtual as part of a major post-tournament review following the sudden dip in attendances.

Numbers across the opening five days of the Championships were down by almost 20,000 compared with 2019 and the key factor has been a significant drop in people queuing up for the cheapest ground-pass tickets.

Available resale tickets have also been regularly oustripping demand and the All England Club is now preparing a root-and-branch review.

Although Wimbledon could comfortably sell out the 42,000 ground capacity with advance sales, they remain strongly committed to releasing around a quarter of their tickets on a daily basis. They will, however, reevaluate the workings of a queue which is one of the great traditions of the British sporting summer but has basically remained unchanged for decades.

Potential innovations include allowing walk-up fans to leave the queue once they have scanned in and then receive an alert, rather like in some restaurants, when it is their turn to enter the grounds.

A selection of tickets could also become available online on a daily basis, although the expectation is that a physical queue would remain in some form.

The review will also take into account the planned redevelopment of Wimbledon Park, which was always going to force change to the shape and location of the queue.

Fans did once literally place their physical tickets into a box when they left but daily resales are now done via a phone scan and Wimbledon are also exploring how to improve this system with a virtual queue.

In American sports, ticketing has advanced to the point where fans can receive a mid-game message that might invite them to move to better seats if another fan has vacated that space for the day. The sight of so many empty seats on Centre Court has been a major frustration this year.

One part of the queue that has stayed just as popular is for those campers who get in position to secure the 1,500 freshly released tickets for Centre Court, Court No 1 and Court No 2.

Campers formed an overnight queue before day one of this year's tournament - PA
Campers formed an overnight queue before day one of this year's tournament - PA

By 8pm on Friday night, there were 700 tents already pitched up in anticipation of Saturday’s matches. Friday was also the first day when ground-pass tickets were sold out, with Wimbledon proactively encouraging local residents to come down of an evening when tickets drop to £5 after 5pm.

With debentures, and pre-match hospitality packages sold out, and the pre-tournament ticket ballot just as popular as ever, it is not sales of the highest priced tickets which has affected numbers during the first week. It is the £27 ground passes, which are released each morning and usually account for around 9,500 of the 42,000 capacity.

Mobile ticketing is being used for the first time this year alongside the option of physical tickets, and, despite some teething issues, the general sense is that this has worked well.

“One of the things we will absolutely be looking at post Championships is what’s behind this slight shortfall in people coming down on the day,”  said Alexandra Willis, the All England club’s communications and marketing director.

“Is it that they don’t know they can? We have spent years not marketing and promoting the queue because we have been worried about too many people coming and people disappointed. It hasn’t happened for three years [due to Covid], so have people just forgotten about it?

“Is it that people want to know, if they are going to make the effort to come, that they are going to get in? We need to look at all of those things. Three years is a really long time. All our behaviours have changed.”

Other theories have included the wider cost-of-living crisis, a dip in London tourists due to Covid rules and simply an evolution at the top of tennis following a truly golden era when players like Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Serena Williams were at their peak.

“The thing this place feels very passionately about is retaining that accessibility,” said Willis. “The mechanism for accessing the tickets might change but the fact that you can still turn up and get tickets on the day is something that we want to preserve.”

Wimbledon also have no plans to introduce a separate evening session to address potential fan ‘fatigue’ now that the roof allows play until 11pm. One metric of comfort to Wimbledon is that audience figures, whether via the BBC platforms or their own digital and social media, have seen a rise this year of around 20 per cent.

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