Wimbledon is one of the highlights of my summer, even though getting a ticket to see the tennis isn’t always cheap or easy – but you can do it on a budget. Here’s how.
I’ve been lucky to go to around half a dozen championships at the All England Club, including one summer where I was there every day working for BBC Sport! I’d not been for quite a few years, but a few years ago Becky and I headed down to SW19 to (rain permitting) enjoy a day of top-quality tennis.
The trick to go to Wimbledon on a budget isn’t to enter the ballot and pay huge amounts for a Centre Court ticket, and instead get up early and join the queue for a ground pass.
Doing this can get you a day of tennis for very little. Here are my ten tips to help you get a ticket to Wimbledon without paying a fortune. You might even end up in Centre Court!
Here are my top tips for getting a ticket.
1. Go in the first week
In terms of value for money, the best way in my experience is to go towards the end of the first week (which this year starts on Monday 3 June).
At this point, the tournament will be in the second or third round where the players will be much more evenly matched. Round one games, especially with the top seeds, can often be a whitewash.
If you want to experience Centre Court, the cheapest tickets are for the first couple of days.
2. Try to buy last-minute tickets
If you’re looking to guarantee a ticket before heading out, such as if you live a little further afield, then last minute ticket options might be an option.
Try your luck the day before
Some tickets are typically sold a day or two before, but there’s no details on the website about them just yet. Last year you needed to download the official Wimbledon app to get them, so it’s worth downloading and signing up to prep.
American Express cardholder tickets
American Express cardholders might be able to grab themselves some last-minute tickets to Centre Court during the tournament. This will be revealed on Amex socials this year, so give them a follow.
You might still be able to get access to returned ballot tickets – these will be restricted to those who were unsuccessful in the ballot. Those who are eligible will get an email detailing how to access the resale.
In previous years the resale was via Ticketmaster and you needed to be quick. Several hundred tickets for Centre Court and Court 3 went on sale at 9am the day before. Returns for the same courts went on sale roughly 48 hours before the start of play, also via Ticketmaster.
It’s a good idea to sign up for the Wimbledon newsletter to be the first to know of any extra ticket releases.
3. Join the queue
The queue is a great way to nab yourself some great tickets on the day. It’s an early start, especially if you live outside of London, but it’s quite an experience in itself – you even get a booklet on how to queue (how British!).
It’s first-come, first… serve (sorry) so the earlier you join the queue the better. If you want a show court you’ll need to be there overnight. A limited number of tickets are available for Centre, No.1 and No.2 Courts. Only one ticket can be bought per person, so you need to be queuing together to get more than one.
For other tickets, well the earlier the better is still the case. Historically, we’ve arrived at around 7am, and didn’t get into the grounds until just gone 1pm! But for most of that time we were just sat in the sun in a field which was actually really nice – just bring a book! There are toilets, food outlets and water refill stations.
Gates open gradually from 9.45am and play normally starts on outer courts around 11am. There’s usually a comprehensive guide to the queue on the Wimbledon website which details how it’s handled.
4. Get a ground pass
The best way to save money on Wimbledon is to get a Grounds Pass – these let you watch some quality tennis on the outer courts for a fraction of the price. In week two you’ll have fewer singles to watch but don’t worry, there’ll be some great doubles action if you go on a Monday or Tuesday.
If you are early (and quick) there are also some unreserved seats and standing space on Court 3. It’ll cost you £27 during the first week, less from the second Tuesday onwards.
4. Bring your own food
Once you’re in, it gets very expensive. Check the T&Cs on your ticket and on the Wimbledon website, but to avoid paying high prices for disappointing burgers, bring a picnic. The same is the case with drinks. You’re allowed to bring your own booze – though not spirits – and there are (fairly generous) limits per person. Remember to bring along a corkscrew to avoid taking a bottle of wine on a day trip (speaking from experience).
Don’t forget a bottle of water – there are fountains where you can refill – and bring along sun cream, or risk paying over the odds for it in the shop. You’ll save near on £20 this way, if not more.
If you’re a Barclays customer, you can get yourself a free portion of strawberries and cream this year — there’s a QR code in the Rewards Hub in the Barclays app, or you can visit Barclays Clubhouse Parkside once you arrive.
5. Go there after work
If the sun is shining, there’s every chance play will carry on until 8 or 9pm. Possibly even later now there’s a roof on Court One as well as Centre.
When I went, there was a discounted cost after 5pm – entrance to the grounds was £14 after during week one, less in week two, so I’d expect it to be not too much more this year.
However, you can only buy these tickets if people have left the grounds as it’s one-in, one-out.
6. Look for people leaving show courts
If people look like they’re calling it a night, just ask politely if they mind giving you their ticket. This is the best way to get yourself into Centre Court. It’s worth a shot!
I used to do this as a kid, and managed it again at the French Open a few years ago (using some very poor GCSE French!).
A couple of years ago one bloke a few feet away just shouted out if anyone wanted his tickets as he was on his way out. We just missed out!
7. Try for returns
If you’re prepared to queue (again), there’s a resale hut that sells reduced show court tickets that people hand in when they leave. All money goes to charity, so it’s a really good idea – apart from that it means more queues.
8. Ask if you can take empty seats.
Late on, you’ll see many seats empty as corporate guests head home. The likelihood is they won’t hand their tickets in to be resold so there’s no official way to fill the seats.
So a young ‘un, I used to just be a bit cheeky and ask if I could nip into one of the empty seats at the back – and I often got onto Centre or No. 1. It might not work, but you’ve nothing to lose.
9. Get a refund if it rains
We all hope it won’t happen, but there’s rarely a year when play doesn’t get rained off. If you see less than an hour of play due to rain you can claim a full refund. If it’s more than an hour but less than two, you’re entitled to 50% back.
10. Watch it on the big screen
If you don’t fancy getting up really early, or get there too late, then there are a load of big screens across London, and no doubt other big cities too. They often have deck chairs and a nearby bar!
A great one is the free Open Air Film Festival from the canal side steps on Granary Square in King’s Cross. The steps are covered in astroturf and there’s usually beanbags and cushions. Nip to a nearby shop to pick up a can of Pimm’s and you’re good to go.
11. The Wimbledon Ballot for next year
Most of the tickets for the show courts are sold through a public ballot which generally opens in September and ends in December, with the results announced in February.
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