Ben Chatfield, a man who has spent more than 30 years obsessively queuing for Wimbledon, shares his no-nonsense guide to scoring tickets
It’s about the time of year when the British nation, en masse, decides to turn its attention to something for which we care not a jot throughout the rest of the year. No, not how to barbecue all our food like it’s the Age of Pithecanthropus, but ‘the tennis’.
Some people call Wimbledon ‘the greatest sporting event in the British calendar’, some people call it ‘a bit posh’, Wimbledon calls it ‘The Championships’, but I like ‘The Fortnight’ – because it sounds fun, like a holiday in the sun. Which it is, sometimes. So here’s my guide to getting in, and it’s one you should most definitely follow. Why? I was born here, I live here and I have spent more than 130 nights sleeping rough on the floor to master it. What’s more, I’ve just written the book on it.
Here are four simple ways to get into Wimbledon (without the use of parachutes).
1 You send in your address for the brilliant ballot
But that was in December last year, so you’ve missed it this time round. Move on.
2 Glue yourself to a computer screen
Every day the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club put 500 tickets for Centre and No 1 Courts (the ‘show courts’) on Ticketmaster. If you know any Bletchley Park-level cryptanalysts, that will be a help. I have never, ever heard of anyone managing to get hold of tickets this way.
3 Buy them from other ticket sales sites
Resold debenture tickets are on offer to anyone, but for that you are looking at £800 each, which – however you cut it – is the same price as a secondhand Jaguar.
4 Get in line
Wimbledon is one of the only major sporting events that still sells tickets on the day, and it’s not that expensive. Especially compared to going to the football. Here are the two routes:
1. Want to get a show court ticket? Fine, but even in the first week you are looking at spending 12-24 hours sitting/standing in the queue. Queuing used to involve sleeping on the pavement, but it’s now rather nice – you take your tent to the park, spend all day and night there, then pack it up in the morning and go in. You can also take your own food and drink, even a bottle of plonk, into the grounds.
2. Want to have the best time possible in the first week at Wimbledon while not spending too much? Right, you want a ground pass; it costs £25 and gets you access to all courts except the show courts. Get down to Southfields tube station on the first train, aim to be in the queue by 5.30am and you should be inside by 10.30am. If that’s too much, just get there as early as you can. Or go and watch a really short Premier League match in August for £95.
Ben Chatfield is the author of ‘Standing in Line: 30 Years of Obsessive Queuing at Wimbledon’, illustrated by Zebedee Helm, available from Amazon and at all good bookshops.
Want to follow The Fortnight? See our full guide to Wimbledon here.