There was good and bad news for the All England Lawn Tennis Club this week, with bumper entries in the Wimbledon Public Ballot for The Championships 2023, its second-highest surplus from this year’s Championships, and a relaxation of the white clothing rule for women, but the Club is still facing opposition to its future development plans by local communities.
The Wimbledon Park Project proposals were designed with two core objectives in mind: to maintain The Championships at the pinnacle of tennis and to provide substantial public benefit to our local community. Therefore, central to our proposals is the creation of a new 9.4-hectare park that will open to the public on previously private land, as well as a new boardwalk around Wimbledon Park lake. We believe these benefits, alongside others such as an increase in biodiversity of the site and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come. Wimbledon Statement
The Public Ballot, which closed on Tuesday, 15 November, is back for the first time in 3 years and has received a record number of entries from fans around the world for the 136th staging of the event, which will be held from Monday 3 to Sunday 16 July next year.
More than 80% of the tickets available to the public are distributed through the Ballot, and those successful will be notified via email early next year.
The successful staging of The Championships 2022 has produced a second-highest surplus, only bettered by the exceptional pre-pandemic event in 2019, and 90% of this, or £42.427 million, will be distributed to the LTA for the benefit of British tennis.
“I’m delighted to confirm a near record surplus to be distributed to the LTA following a hugely successful Championships earlier this year,” Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club, said. “I hope that this investment will continue to assist the LTA in its mission to encourage even more people across the UK to pick up a racket, and to support the development of players through to a professional level.
“I’m also pleased to share that the Wimbledon Public Ballot has received a record number of entries during the application phase, including renewed strong levels of interest from overseas fans who are hopeful of attending The Championships next year.”
Meanwhile, responding to the issue of women players’ anxiety over wearing white underwear while having their periods, Wimbledon will relax its rules to allow them to wear dark undershorts.
The decision comes following discussion and engagement with the WTA, clothing manufacturers and medical teams on how best to support women and girls competing at The Championships.
“We are committed to supporting the players and listening to their feedback as to how they can perform at their best,” AELTC Chief Executive Sally Bolton said in a statement. “I’m pleased to confirm that, following consultation with players and representatives of several stakeholder groups, the Committee of Management has taken the decision to update the white clothing rule at Wimbledon.
“This means that from next year, women and girls competing at The Championships will have the option of wearing coloured undershorts if they choose.
“It is our hope that this rule adjustment will help players focus purely on their performance by relieving a potential source of anxiety.”
Requirements for other clothing, accessories and equipment remain unchanged.
The AELTC’s Professional Tennis team will be bolstered by two new hires, with Laura Robson and Jamie Delgado set to join at the end of November.
Robson is an Olympic silver medallist and Junior Wimbledon Champion who achieved a career-high ranking of No 27 in the world, while Delgado is also a successful former player who represented Great Britain in the Davis Cup and has built an impressive coaching track record having worked with Andy Murray, Gilles Müller and Denis Shapovalov.
Their roles will be focused on international player relations, with a remit that includes travelling to tournaments around the world to foster collaboration and engagement with the tennis community.
Robson has been working with the LTA on extending her knowledge of the event operations and management space over the past eighteen months including onsite experience at the cinch Championships at The Queens Club, Rothesay Open at Nottingham and, more recently, as Tournament Director of the women’s ITF $25,000 in Loughborough.
She will be taking up the role of Tournament Director at the Rothesay Open at Nottingham next year and also at an additional combined ITF event planned for April.
Jamie Baker, Head of Professional Tennis and Tournament Director, said: ‘’Over the last four-and-a-half years, the All England Club has invested in, evolved and enhanced the Professional Tennis area of the organisation and these two appointments are an exciting next step.
“The player community is one of our most important stakeholder groups and I am looking forward to the positive impact Laura and Jamie will have on enhancing our year-round relationship with them.”
Elsewhere, the campaign to block the Club’s plans for a major tennis facility on the green space adjacent to Church Road, which was part designed by Capability Brown and is Metropolitan Open Land, continues to grow.
The proposal to build an 8000-seater stadium and 37 grass courts for the Qualifying Competition in the park awaits a planning decision due to be made by Merton and Wandsworth Council early next year, having been postponed from this month.
If approved, building works could take over a decade to be completed.
Putney’s MP Fleur Anderson, whose constituency borders the area, is calling on her constituents to sign the petition opposing the development on Wimbledon Park, which has over 6,200 signatures to date.
In September, she released a statement with Stephen Hammond, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon, jointly objecting to the proposals.
“I have been working with local residents to oppose these inappropriate plans for our precious local green space,” Ms Anderson said. “Now more than ever, we all appreciate what our green space gives us and I want to see the maximum amount of space possible protected for public use.
“We only have these green spaces because people fought off developers, and this is our generation’s fight to save this green space from an industrial scale development.
“The proposed Show Court is just too big for this residential area and the plans will necessitate cutting down many mature trees.
“The qualifier courts will be ringed with 9km of tarmac paths and utility structures rather than green open space.
“The public park part of the proposals sounds good and more open to the public that the golf course,” Ms Anderson conceded. “However, this hides the fact that the public part of the development will still be owned by The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), will be closed for several weeks in May and June every year and can be built on in the future.
“Earlier plans had hotels in the proposals which show that our fears are based on what AELTC could do.
“These proposals do not protect Wimbledon Park from future development. I want the land put into a trust, which would protect it from ever being built on.
“In 1993, Merton Council gave permission to the golf course to develop on the park with the provision that this remain a green open space.
“I am urging local people to write to their Merton or Wandsworth Councillors and ask them to save our green spaces and reject these plans.”
An AELTC spokesperson said: “The Wimbledon Park Project proposals were designed with two core objectives in mind: to maintain The Championships at the pinnacle of tennis and to provide substantial public benefit to our local community.
“Therefore, central to our proposals is the creation of a new 9.4-hectare park that will open to the public on previously private land, as well as a new boardwalk around Wimbledon Park lake.
“We believe these benefits, alongside others such as an increase in biodiversity of the site and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come.”
For full details on the Wimbledon Park Project click HERE