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 last summer Becky and I headed down to SW19 and (rain permitting) enjoy a day of top quality tennis.
The trick to do this on a budget isn’t to enter the ballot and pay huge amounts for a Centre Court ticket. Instead, we got up early and joined the queue for a ground pass. Doing this got us a day of tennis for very little, and you can too with my nine tips to help you get a ticket to Wimbledon without paying a fortune. You might even end up in Centre Court too!
1. Go in the first week
In fact, go towards the end of the first week (which this year starts on Monday 1st July). By then 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. Though if you want to experience Centre Court, the cheapest tickets are for the first couple of days.
2. Try online the day before
If you really want a show court, this is worth a go. You’ll need to be quick, but several hundred tickets for Centre Court and Court 3 will be on sale at 9am the day before. This is only through Ticketmaster. Returns for the same courts will be on sale roughly 48 hours before the start of play via Ticketmaster.
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3. Join the queue
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 Court. It’s one per person so you need to be queing together to get more than one.
For other tickets, well the earlier the better is still the case. We arrived at just after 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!
Gates open gradually from 9.15am and play normally starts on outer courts around 11am. There’s a comprehensive guide to the queue on the Wimbledon website.
4. Get a ground pass
You can 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 Monday or Tuesday.
If you are early (and quick) there is are also some unreserved seats and standing space on Court 3. It’ll cost you £25 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, but to avoid paying high prices for disappointing burgers, bring a packed lunch. The same with drinks. You can bring your own booze – though not spirits. Don’t forget a bottle of water – there are fountains where you can refill. You’ll save near on £20 this way, if not more.
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. Last year, entrance to the grounds was £14 after 5pm during week one, less in week two – though that’s only if people have left the grounds as it’s one-in, one-out.
6. Look for people leaving show courts
This is the best way to get yourself onto Centre. 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!). If people look like they’re calling it a night, just ask politely if they mind giving you their ticket. It’s worth a shot! Last year on a 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 which 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 the queues!
8. Be cheeky/cute/flirty
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. As a young ‘un, this is how I got onto Centre or No. 1. Just ask the people at the different gates. You never know.
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!
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.