polo assn shoes Wimbledon still serving up profits
Professional sport, like every other business operating during the biggest global recession since the 1930s, has to balance its public appeal with commercial reality.
It’s a particularly delicate balancing act when, as with Wimbledon, you only have one opportunity in the entire year to make an operational profit.
For two weeks at the end of June, the leafy suburb in south west London plays host to what is now, the only remaining tennis Grand Slam played on grass.
Unlike the other three Grand Slams, held in New York, Paris and Melbourne, Wimbledon does not allow advertising around the court.
One of the talking points at Wimbledon 2009 is the new retractable roof on centre court.
Some critics question whether an outlay of an estimated $100m ( was justified when it does not rain all the time but Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club, points out that they have rebuilt a 1920s stadium which was in need of refurbishment anyway.
“Fifteen thousand people come here and it’s their lifetime ambition to get a seat on centre court and I always feel very sorry for them if it rains and they miss it,” he says.
“And in broadcasting terms, there is now a guarantee of live play.”
He maintains that the innovation enhances the tournament as a whole and shows that the club is progressive.
“You always have to be commercially realistic,” Mr Ritchie says.
“From the medium to long term, with the fragmentation of TV audiences, broadcasting rights are going to be under pressure.”
He maintains however, that premium events will always command a premium sum and that will continue for some time to come.
“We are not complacent but most of our contracts are for five years and they have all been renewed on enhanced terms,” he says.
Matthew Thompson of the catering group Compass, which looks after corporate hospitality and catering at Wimbledon, including the royal box on centre court, is more pessimistic.
Overall, corporate hospitality has fallen and he is employing 20% fewer staff this year.
There are fewer clients and they are less lavish in their entertaining.
“It’s a tough market and we start selling a year in advance,” he says.
“Overall the market is down but we are no different to any other sector in the economy.”
He believes the club has been able to modernise without losing the charm of a local tennis club.
“We introduced Hawk Eye, changed the scoreboards, and have a significant digital output for viewers and listeners around the world,” he says.