I recently received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from British Airways and Wimbledon Tours to go to the UK for a long weekend to attend WIMBLEDON! If you’ve always dreamed of going to the granddaddy of Grand Slam events in style, then listen up! Keith Prowse is the official Wimbledon Tours provider and they’ve been selling tickets to the theatre, sporting events, concerts and special events for 220 years! They started in London but now have offices in more than 50 countries.
There are different tours available but most Americans choose to watch two days of tennis (a day’s play on Centre Court and another on No. 1 Court) and then explore London. What’s included is three nights’ accommodations and a buffet lunch each day at The Wimbledon Experience. I was short on time so I only went one day, and they made it really easy.
First of all, Wimbledon is not that far from London. For some crazy reason I thought it was an hour’s drive but it turned out to be less than a thirty-minute Tube ride from Holborn Station (near Covent Garden) including a switch at Earl’s Court. Everyone had to get off at Southfields Station (not Wimbledon), which I assume was for security reasons. From there it’s a 12-minute walk to the stadium, or you can opt to take one of Wimbledon Tours exclusive vans. They’re only allowed to have two of these vans, and in the time we waited for one we could’ve walked the whole way—and I could have used the exercise anyway.
Good to Know: Here’s a link to the London Tube map.
Along the way I learned a lot about the long queues. I had no idea it was so difficult to get a ticket to Wimbledon—so difficult that some super fans will spend the night or all day lined up (even in the rain) to get a ticket. What’s nice, though, is that according to my buddy Roy Berger (he’s the CEO of MedJetAssist), “They publish a 26 page ‘Guide To Queueing’ on the rules and regs of spending the night or showing up at 6 am on the whim you might get a ticket to the grounds. And in a very interesting twist, if you leave before the days matches have ended, you’ll be politely asked by the gate stewards to have your ticket scanned. They will resell your ticket to the next in queue with all those monies being donated to charity.”
Roy, who was at Wimbledon a few days before me also said:
“Wimbledon tickets, while you can get them, are pro-rata the most expensive in sport. Tightly controlled by lottery and the famous overnight queue for Centre Court and the other ‘show’ courts, you can legally buy re-sale ‘Debenture’ tickets which are owned by blokes that have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund bonds The All England Lawn Tennis Club issues for capital improvements. For the two days we were there —second round—resale price was about 1200 pounds per ticket. After the horrendous US dollar exchange rate, they converted at about $2000 each which is higher than the Super Bowl get-in price. And that was only the first week. All remaining tickets in the 15,000 seat venue are cherished and prohibited by forfeiture from resale. The approach to the grounds are scalper free, so you better have your tickets in hand or head right to the long and winding queue.”
Once we reached the grounds there was a golf cart shuttle waiting to take us to The Gatsby Club. The Gatsby Club is a spacious and sleek pop-up that takes place during Wimbledon and was designed to impress guests. Inside there’s a stunning restaurant that serves food from world-class chef Albert Roux, who has designed a three-course à la carte menu accompanied by selected fine wines. On sunny days, which unfortunately we did not have, you can check out the garden area next to the Terrace Bar, where live musicians often play.
Play didn’t start until 1 pm and since we arrived at 11 am, we started off with some drinks and lunch before heading to Centre Court. There were three matches on Saturday on Centre Court and all featured one of the world’s top players: Nadal, Sharipova and Federer. All three won.
Before the first match they announced the sports stars who were sitting in the Queen’s Box about 50 yards from me. Since I had my zoom I got a great photo of David Beckham. The biggest ovation went to the armed forces who volunteered as ushers during Wimbledon.
Since I was with a group of eight and we had four tickets for Centre Court and four tickets for No. 1 Court, I gave up my seat after the first set since some of my colleagues were much bigger tennis fans than I am, as they couldn’t watch play on No. 1 Court since it was raining. Only Centre Court has a retractable roof.
After passing off my tickets, I walked around a bit before going back to The Gatsby Club for afternoon tea and English strawberries with cream. Couldn’t miss that, could I? I then left at 6—just as the sun was starting to pop her beautiful head of out the rain clouds—since I had a Skype interview to do from my hotel room. Play stops when it gets dark, which on this day was around 9:30 pm.
For more info on how to get tickets for next year’s Wimbledon, see this link. Also, below I have copied and pasted what a sample hospitality package includes and here’s a PDF of the event guide. And finally, my friend Julie (aka A Lady In London) wrote a blog post on an expat’s first timers Wimbledon Guide.
- Official Debenture Centre Court / Official Debenture No.1 Court / Official No. 1 Court ticket
- Champagne reception served to your table
- Complimentary bar, including champagne
- 3-course à la carte menu designed by Albert Roux, with a choice of specially selected wines
- Traditional Wimbledon afternoon tea with strawberries and cream
- Plasma television screens to keep guests informed of play
- Garden area to relax and unwind
- Wi-Fi throughout
- Car parking on request (one per four guests)
- Official Wimbledon programme
- Newspapers available upon request
- Commemorative VIP pass and documentation
- Shuttle bus to and from Southfields Tube Station (from 10 am to 9 pm)
- The Gatsby Club has private tables for 2-12 guests (private areas are available for 40 guests or more)