SBD/Issue 197/Sports Media

BBC Denies Role In Decision To Close Centre Court Roof Monday

BBC's Exclusive Deal With All England Club
Gives It Rights To Wimbledon Until 2014
The BBC moved quickly yesterday to "distance itself from suggestions that it had influenced the decision" to close the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon on Monday to "boost primetime viewing figures on BBC1," according to Owen Gibson of the Manchester GUARDIAN. The BBC, which has an "exclusive deal with the All England Club giving it the rights to the tournament until 2014," insisted that the "final decision over when to close the roof lies solely with championship referee Andrew Jarrett." But the BBC is "understood to have made it clear that it would prefer" matches featuring Andy Murray to be "scheduled as late as possible to maximise audiences and post-work viewing." Meanwhile, All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC) CEO Ian Ritchie "dismissed Murray's implied claims that the air management system had not worked correctly and that the resulting humidity affected his game" during his win over Stanislas Wawrinka on Monday. Ritchie: "It was very humid generally. We thought the conditions were fine and perfectly playable. The court was perfectly dry, I've not heard anyone say it was slippery on court." Ritchie said the closed roof "produced a fantastic event for people here and for millions on television." Ritchie: "From where I'm sitting it was a great success. ... From an event and tennis point of view it was fantastic. A great advert for tennis and Wimbledon." Murray's match concluded after 10:30pm local time on Monday, but Ritchie yesterday "denied that night-time finishes ... would become a regular feature of Wimbledon" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 6/30).

ALL AROUND SUCCESS: In London, Burgess & Dixon write the new Centre Court roof is "likely to benefit the All England Club's coffers," as industry figures indicate that the estimated US$41.1M annual TV income "would increase by as much as a quarter if matches were regularly allowed to run later." Matches running until midnight in London would finish at 7:00pm ET in the U.S., "right at the beginning of prime time in the world's biggest television market" (LONDON TIMES, 7/1). Also in London, Cassandra Jardine writes the debut of the roof "must be judged a resounding success." The roof and its lights are the "best new developments in British tennis since women emerged from long skirts." Jardine: "Hooray for [NBC] and the other networks who put pressure on Wimbledon's organisers to cover over. Those who pay to broadcast the matches to 1.8 billion people in 131 countries aren't the only ones who don't enjoy a fortnight of uncertainty" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/1).

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