The mystery of the 6,000 missing Wimbledon fans - and why The Queue is losing its charm

·4 min read
Spectators queue outside the ground waiting to enter before the start of play on the first day of the 135th Wimbledon Championships, in Wimbledon, Britain, 27 June 2022 - The mystery of the 6,000 missing Wimbledon fans - and why The Queue is losing its charm - SHUTTERSTOCK
Spectators queue outside the ground waiting to enter before the start of play on the first day of the 135th Wimbledon Championships, in Wimbledon, Britain, 27 June 2022 - The mystery of the 6,000 missing Wimbledon fans - and why The Queue is losing its charm - SHUTTERSTOCK

The All England Club remains firmly committed to its unique 'Wimbledon Queue' tradition despite posting its lowest opening day attendance since 2007.

A first day crowd at SW19 of 36,603 was almost 6,000 fewer than the last comparable such day before Covid in 2019 despite a stellar Centre Court line-up of Novak Djokovic, Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray.

The All England Club had sold out their maximum allocation of pre-sale tickets - of which many were carried over from the cancelled tournament of 2022 - meaning either an unexpectedly high number of ‘no shows’ or a fading of traditions such as the celebrated ‘Wimbledon queue’ and the resale of used show court tickets.

Wimbledon insiders also pointed to Monday’s overhead clouds and rain, which did cause two breaks in play, but it was still striking to see only a half-full Court No 2 when Cameron Norrie, the British No 1 and ninth seed, started his campaign at 11am.

Centre Court also contained an unexpectedly large number of holes on Monday, even for the return of Murray, the winner of two Wimbledon titles and an Olympic gold medallist, on the hallowed turf.

With play scheduled for the middle Sunday for the first time, the All England Club are still expecting a record overall attendance across the two weeks even if they will now be watching carefully to see if Monday was a blip or the start of a trend.

Daily Telegraph DT Sport Wimbledon Day 1 Emma Raducanu vs Alison Van Uytvanck - HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY
Daily Telegraph DT Sport Wimbledon Day 1 Emma Raducanu vs Alison Van Uytvanck - HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

The cost-of-living crisis is another obvious factor and there was a public reminder on Tuesday for those fans who leave Centre Court, Court No 1 or Court No 2 early in the day to make their tickets available for resale.

“We were delighted to welcome back two long-held Wimbledon traditions after a three-year hiatus – the queue and the ticket resale scheme,” said an All England Club spokesperson.

“Day one saw a natural bedding in of operations for these ticketing opportunities, and we will be encouraging any Centre, No 1 and No 2 Court ticket-holders to scan out their tickets on departure so they can be offered back through the ticket resale scheme and ensure that these courts are fully populated for late play.”

With more than 5,000 tickets on sale daily, including 500 for each of the show courts, fans have been camped out since 11pm on Friday. The experience is not universally appreciated, however.

Price of glass of Pimm’s increases from £8.50 to £9.75

Lynda Rose said that “Wimbledon need to move with the times” and suggested that “sleeping in tents” to watch a sporting event was an antiquated tradition that will put off younger generations.

“Totally wrong,” countered Richard Brown. “[It] means that real fans can get in if they want to. Unlike every other major sporting event they don’t sell all the seats to enable those that missed out on ballot/can’t get corporate another chance to get on a show court.”

First in queue, Brent Pham, from California, USA, ahead of day one of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon - PA
First in queue, Brent Pham, from California, USA, ahead of day one of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon - PA

Colm O’Donnell particularly cited the absence of Roger Federer. “This is the first year that I’m feeling neutral, not seeing my favourite player that I really would pay good money to see and watch on court,” he said.

The All England Club could sell out their daily 42,000 capacity several times over but remain proudly committed to the concept of The Queue and the accessibility that is provided by walk-up sales and their strict, non-transferable allocation of tickets. It is a system that is virtually unheard of at any other major sporting event.

Sally Bolton, the chief executive of the All England Club, also acknowledged the potential impact of the cost-of-living crisis, which has caused a glass of Pimm’s to increase by 15 per cent, from £8.50 to £9.75. Tickets for the two main show courts have also risen, and range from £240 to £70 up until the final weekend, although a ground pass is only £2 more than 2019 at £27.

“Like every other business, our costs are increasing across the board, so we’re having to balance that challenge,” said Bolton. “As much as we can, we’re trying not to pass that on to the consumer.

“One of the most iconic parts of our food and drink offer, strawberries, are kept at £2.50 and have been now since 2010, so we’ve retained those at an accessible price despite input prices going up.”

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