26 July 2023 Private Eye: Did the All England club grasp the opportunity to build better relations with it's neghbours ? Far from it !
This year's Wimbledon Tournament saw some spectacular tennis, but did the All England club grasp the opportunity to build better relations with its neighbours ? Far from it !
Eye readers will recall that the club has upset locals with plans to move its qualifying tournament into neighbouring Wimbledon Park. After buying up a golf club in the Capability Brown designed park, it unveiled plans for an 8,000-seat stadium, 38 courts, maintenance buildings and 9km of pathways.
The land has been sold to the club by Merton Council with a strict covenant restricting its use to leisure, recreation and open parkland. The All England Club's large scale building plans are being fought by locals and their campaign group, Save Wimbledon Park.
With this dispute hovering in the background, Wimbledon fortnight began. The queue for day tickets is situated in Wimbledon Park by prior arrangement with the council. It received bad publicity this year for its terrible organisation, with an estimated 12,000 people waiting for lengthy periods thanks to extra security checks. The Friends of Wimbledon Park were appalled that besides the park's normal facilities there were only ten portaloos available for the queueing hordes to use on the first day. As a result, locals came across dozens of people relieving themselves in Horse Close Wood, which is normally a haven for young families and dog walkers. One local reported that his toddler had come back from the wood with human excrement on their hands.
Another bone of contention was a 1arge raised flowerbed at the entrance to the car park which had been planted by volunteers from the Friends of Wimbledon Park. At the start of the championships these were unceremoniously ripped up and replaced with bedding in the Wimbledon colour. “All right, they were newer flowers, but it’s an incredibly high-handed thing to do” one Friend of Wimbledon Park told the Eye.
The ramifications of the Wimbledon Park dispute reached all the way to the royal box. Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond normally receives an invitation to the box, but after he made his opposition to the club's planning application very clear it was reported that he was not invited this year.
The final nail in the coffin of good neighbourly relations was a large poster on display inside the club grounds which proudly told visitors about plans for future qualifying tournaments to be held in Wimbledon Park. "Proposals for the land reflect [Capability] Brown's spirit and aim to restore the landscape’s open and more naturalistic character,'' the poster claimed. Then came the line that really had the locals spitting out their Pimm s: "The project will be delivered in
partnership with the local community."
It’s not just local residents that the club has managed to alienate: one of its team of drivers for the tournament reports that respect from the club for them has diminished. Casual removal of privileges for this highly responsible role has culminated in the removal without explanation or consultation of court No 1 tickets.
The drivers, already among the. lowest-paid staff, were also insulted by reduction to zero-hours contracts, leaving them paid less than programme sellers despite being responsible for the safety and wellbeing of players and VIPs.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon makes much of its drive to be a net-zero event by 2030 - but while it does have 20 electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs, much of its fleet is still made up of diesel-chugging Land Rover Defenders.