Wimbledon Start Sees Empty Seats, Drawing Criticism Of Corporate Sponsors
The All England Club "was forced to defend its ticketing policy" after Serena Willams "emerged on to Centre Court for her opening round match against Mandy Minella to swaths of unoccupied seats," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Had the match not overlapped with some long corporate lunches, the world No. 1 "might have played in front of a full house." As it was, the biggest draw in the women’s game "could not persuade Britain’s movers and shakers to abandon their hospitality tents." Williams "tried to play down the sparse attendance rather than alienate her fans or the tournament organisers." She said, "I didn’t notice." Heather Watson "found it similarly difficult to muster the crowds to No. 2 Court as she was defeated by Madison Keys." It was the second successive day that "the large numbers of empty seats had attracted attention." Even Roger Federer began his '13 campaign "in front of a less than capacity crowd on Centre Court." TV presenter Gary Lineker tweeted, "Lots of empty seats on centre court. Corporate lethargy no doubt. What a waste of tickets so many could give their right arm for #wimbledon." A spokesperson from the All England Club said that "spectators would be expected to leave their seats at the start of an all-day event to get refreshments." An estimated 8,000 tickets "were sold on Monday morning before the queue closed" at 7:45am -- the earliest time in the tournament’s history (LONDON TIMES, 6/26).
HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS: In London, Jonathan Liew wrote to an increasing degree, Wimbledon "is a place of haves and have-nots." It is "common for debenture holders and corporate ticket-holders to arrive late or leave early, or fail to turn up at all." All of which "adds up to swathes of empty seats, just when the majority of television viewers are tuning in." Head across the road, however, and you "will find thousands of people who would gladly pay to fill those seats." You "join us now at the head of the famous Wimbledon queue, where the determined and the demented camp out for days in the hope of laying their hands on Centre Court tickets." The All England Club points out that corporate tickets "are limited as far as possible." On Centre Court, for example, public sales account for 53% of tickets, debenture holders 17% and hospitality 9%, with the rest "distributed among schools, players, officials, media and the Royal Box." It also "points to the established resale system, by which spectators leaving the grounds put their used tickets in red boxes by the exit." Their seats are then sold for £5 ($7.70), with "proceeds going to charity." It is "a nice system, and almost unique among major sporting events." But it "does not account for those who arrive late, or fail to show" (TELEGRAPH, 6/26).