Swathes of empty seats on Wimbledon’s Centre Court have been blamed on hospitality guests wining and dining rather than watching the tennis.
Fans unable to find Centre Court tickets have complained about the large number of empty seats at key matches this week – including those of Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray on Wednesday.
BBC presenter Sue Barker, who is anchoring the coverage for the broadcaster for the last time, made a comment about “lots of empty seats” at the start of Raducanu’s match against France’s Caroline Garcia.
The seats, which are located around the Royal Box, are believed to be reserved for corporate guests and members of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and All England Lawn Tennis Club.
One ticket-holder said that the best part of having a hospitality ticket was the ability to “drop in and drop out of the tennis”.
Paul Miller, the founder of Eden Mill, the official gin partner to the LTA, also acknowledged that some guests may not want to watch much tennis and that “that’s their prerogative”.
Describing the benefits of hospitality tickets, he added: “The ability to have the peaceful little bit of time away from all the hubbub around Wimbledon where there’s a lot of noise and a lot of action going on and being able to step outside and be looked after for a brief time in between matches … in that [hospitality] area.
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“The ability to be able to drop in and drop out of the tennis, see as much or as little as you want, and also in our case where we’re hosting a lot of guests – to be able to allow them to do as they wish.”
Technical glitches on the first two days of the championship, which affected re-sale tickets for Centre Court, were also said to be a reason for the empty seats.
At about 6pm on Wednesday, people at the front of the queue for Centre Court tickets said they had been waiting in line for more than two hours.
Killy Cavendish, a seasoned Wimbledon fan who lives locally and has been coming to the tournament for years, said: “I am fed up. I don’t like seeing empty seats at all, when people are stuck outside queueing. The main thing I want to see is them release some Centre Court tickets.”
Max Smith said: “Hate it. It does leave a bad taste when you see all those empty seats reserved for corporates. Screw the corporate types, they should just go to a fancy restaurant instead. Wimbledon needs to do more to make it seem like it’s not elitist.” He added that after queueing “for two hours” he felt that Wimbledon was more concerned with “its elite reputation” than filling seats.