Wimbledon blames rain for drop in spectators in first week (2024)

All England club denies loss of big-ticket players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to blame

Wimbledon has suggested the weather rather than competition from other events or a lack of star players is to blame for a dip in attendances at this year’s tournament.

Fewer visitors were recorded on every day of the tournament’s opening week, except for Tuesday when Andy Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion, was expected to play in the first round of the men’s singles.

Tournament records reveal 282,955 fans had passed through SW19, around 10,000 fewer than in 2023, a near 4 per cent drop.

Torrential downpours had certainly dampened enthusiasm from expectant visitors with nearly a month’s worth of rain (38.6 mm) falling in the space of a single week, according to Met Office data, recorded at nearby Kew Gardens.

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Friday alone saw half a month’s worth of rainfall (26.6mm) in a single day and the lowest attendance on Wimbledon’s fifth day (36,360) since 1998 – excluding the pandemic-restricted 2021 tournament.

As the second week of the tournament began Sally Bolton, head of the All England club, denied Wimbledon had lost its allure for fans following the absence of stars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.

She said: “This year the weather has been so variable and so bad at times that I think at the moment our assessment is it’s almost certainly the weather that’s impacting [attendance].

She added: “I think the real challenge for everyone is the variability of the weather.

Wimbledon blames rain for drop in spectators in first week (1)

“Even those who are just using weather apps can see that you are coming in, looking two days ahead and it looks like it’s getting better and then it changes.”

“None of us had seen how excited people would become about the likes of [Carlos] Alcaraz [the defending Wimbledon champion] and [Jannik] Sinner [the World number one] and others.

“There is genuine excitement about this new generation.”

However in a week featuring a general election and Euro 2024, Ms Bolton said it was becoming increasingly difficult to grab viewers attention.

She added: “I think the broader challenge for tennis and sport is that competition for people’s attention and time is just ever greater from a whole range of different things.”

Wimbledon blames rain for drop in spectators in first week (2)

Ms Bolton dismissed concerns that the semi-final clash between England and the Netherlands on Wednesday would affect Wimbledon attendance, commenting: “I am not concerned about a football impact.

“At this point, I am still concerned about it still raining”.

England’s Euro 2024 quarter-final victory against Switzerland on Saturday was watched on BBC One by a peak audience of 16.8 million people.

Challenging tournament

Asked if this was the most challenging tournament to schedule since her tenure began, in 2020, Ms Bolton replied: “Probably from a scheduling standpoint and just the unpredictability of the weather, it just means that when you are looking ahead to a day, you start with a plan in mind and the rain really is quite unpredictable.”

A total of 79 matches have been cancelled so far, many of them junior players owing to a combination of the weather and player injuries.

Wimbledon blames rain for drop in spectators in first week (3)

Ms Bolton said they were prepared to accept fluctuations in attendance because of tickets being held back for its famous queue.

She added: “The weather has been so terrible that perseverance in the queue has been even greater this year than it ordinarily is.

“We’re never about maximising our attendances, we’re all about protecting the queue and making sure that we have still got that accessibility, accepting that, as a result of that, [there is] some variability on the numbers that we will end up achieving.”

“Every year when we get back to the end of the championships we look back and try and analyse the data to understand what might drive that.”

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The weather for the tennis does not look likely to improve immediately, as yellow weather warnings for rain have been issued by the forecaster across parts of southern England and south Wales on Monday night and in northern Scotland on Tuesday night.

Andrea Bishop, of the Met Office, said: “It has been a damp start to Wimbledon, with more than double the rainfall we’d expect to see over the Greater London area in the first week.

“It is the influence of low pressure which has been bringing periods of rain, and this doesn’t look like it’s changing over the next couple of days.

“But, there is some good news for fans, as there is a signal towards drier conditions overall by the weekend.

“Although there should be some sunny spells, there will still be showers in places with temperatures generally below average for the time of year.”

Related Topics

  • Wimbledon Tennis,
  • United Kingdom,
  • Wimbledon,
  • South West London,
  • Weather,
  • UK Weather
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