Thursday, December 2News That Matters

Wimbledon to push for more fans after French Open reveal plan for 33 per cent capacity crowds

The French Open pointed the way towards what might happen at Wimbledon when they announced that they will allow in 33 per cent capacity crowds towards the end of the Paris fortnight.

More than 13,000 spectators will come in from the middle of the second week as restrictions lift, and from that point on they will all need to show a ‘health passport’ proving they have been vaccinated or had prior infection.

Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association were among the signatories on a letter last month urging the UK Government to use a certification process to help increase crowds by the end of June, when the Championships begin.

French Open will allow in 33 per cent capacity crowds towards the end of the Paris fortnight

French Open will allow in 33 per cent capacity crowds towards the end of the Paris fortnight

French Open will allow in 33 per cent capacity crowds towards the end of the Paris fortnight

Currently, only 25 per cent of the usual number are due to attend, a lower ratio than what will eventually be seen in Paris, despite the UK’s better Covid-19 rates and much faster vaccine rollout.

But insiders are increasingly confident that this could be doubled by the start date of June 28, and certainly by the finals weekend of July 11.

Wimbledon are unlikely to lack a hotline to the Government, and not just because Boris Johnson is a tennis enthusiast. A key member of the All England Club’s main management committee is Lord O’Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary and one of the best connected men in the country.

Behind the scenes, work is being done to increase crowds from the present stated expectation of 10,000 per day.

Currently, only 25 per cent of the usual number are due to attend Wimbledon this summer

Currently, only 25 per cent of the usual number are due to attend Wimbledon this summer

Currently, only 25 per cent of the usual number are due to attend Wimbledon this summer

With Grand Slam events closely allied, French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton may have known something when he said on Wednesday: ‘Wimbledon will probably have a big attendance. Same for the US Open, good news for everyone.’

The uncertainty over crowd numbers is connected to the delay in announcing the prize money for Wimbledon until early next month. One way in which they are unlikely to follow the French is in having to announce the kind of clear reduction in prize money which was unveiled on Wednesday.

Roland Garros offered total prize money of £36million in 2019, but it went down to £31m at the rescheduled event last October. This time it will be further reduced, down to £29m.

Due to the first nine days of the tournament taking place during Paris’s 9pm curfew, all but one of the scheduled night sessions will be held behind closed doors.