We find ourselves approaching this year's Wimbledon lawn tennis championships with almost unique optimism. We can remember when winning a grand slam singles tournament would have guaranteed you the BBC Sports Personality trophy for the next five years, but Scotland's (and Wandsworth's) Andy Murray discovered that capturing the US Open and winning at Wimbledon, albeit in the Olympics, was, after all, not quite as dear to the nation's heart as Games gold plus winning the Tour de France. Mostly that just shows we're now spoilt for sporting success and expect victory, not just a brave effort. With Andy seeded no. 2 this year tens of thousands will be thronging to queue for tickets to see him chase that elusive five set title on grass, so here's this year's update of our handy guide to joining in.
The basic rules of how it all works have remained very similar since we brought changes to the system to your attention when they were first made in 2008. In 2009 we added the experiences of Londonista Caroline who succesfully camped overnight for Court Two tickets. Two years ago a new showcourt, No. 3, was added and this year a few details have changed, too. Here's the rundown.
- Surprisingly few people know that about 500 Centre Court tickets are made available via Ticketmaster for the following day's play. This year's prices have not yet been revealed, but should not differ much from last year's £48.40 each. They used to go on sale at 9am the day before they were to be used, but Ticketmaster seem to be suggesting that sales might now be spread across the day and might be available earlier. Check back with them early on Saturday 22nd June for further details. Tickets for the rebuilt Court No. 3 will again also be available for around £40, or £20 for a wheelchair space. Returned tickets for either court may also be available at the same price (last year availability was refreshed at noon each day).
- If you decide on the more traditional queueing in person (as favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister, Pippa Middleton), a single queue operates from Gate 3 of the All England Club.
- On joining the queue you receive a dated and numbered card that you must keep until the turnstile. In 2009 Caroline and her friends arrived at 8pm and found that there were already 1,704 people in the queue ahead of them. Last year Melonie Clarke, a writer with The Lady, arrived at 11:45am on a Sunday and was given number 414, low enough for a centre court ticket.
- There is camping overnight in Wimbledon Park for an expected 2,000 people per night. Caroline and friends enjoyed their evening, though, courtesy of some friendly folk with frisbees and volleyballs as well as the handy availablity of burgers, ice cream and decent toilets. This year, Wimbledon have outlawed gazebos (last year they were merely discouraged) and it's worth pointing out that tents are expected to sleep no more than two people. Any music (and ball games, incidentally) must cease at 10pm and must not be deemed "loud" when played. If you've brought some fortified beverages to pass the time, you'll need to drink most of them before heading off to sleep as each person is only allowed to take one bottle of wine or two 500ml cans of beer into the Championships. Drink responsibly, though as drunken behaviour could result in the confiscation of your precious queue card.
- Campers are woken at 6am by Wimbledon stewards. Caroline found that, in practice, many wake up with the general hubbub starting at about 5am.
- Around 7.30am, 1,500 or so coloured wristbands are distributed indicating entitlement to a ticket for Centre, No. 1 or No. 2 court. Tickets for the new No. 3 court CANNOT be acquired in this way. They can only be bought in advance via Ticketmaster (as above), though there is some free seating on the court that you can grab with a simple ground pass. Caroline says she was allocated a court two wristband around nine o'clock despite being about 1,700th in the queue. Her good fortune may indicate that the odds (and times) have changed a little thanks to the opening of the new, larger Centre Court. Caroline was also able to deposit her tent and sleeping bags at the Left Luggage area for a mere £1 an item. However, £5 is now charged for "camping equipment", though £4 is donated to charity. Items must be claimed by one hour after close of play.
- At least 6,000, and as many as 9,000, general entry tickets are available, but by 10am there will already be more people than that in the queue. Once inside, very few spectators will leave until after 5pm.
- Sales are strictly one ticket per person and cash only.
- You may take in only one bag, which must be soft-sided and measure no more than 16” [was 18"] x 12" x 12" (40cm [was 45cm] x 30cm x 30cm). Even in that bag, no hard-sided items (thermos flasks, coolboxes, etc) will be allowed).
- Neither equipment nor another person may hold a place for anyone unless there has been prior negotiation.
The British Tennis site will help you identify whereabouts in Wimbledon Park to actually find the queue.
Photo of a Wimbledon queuing ticket via acme's Flickr stream.