Wimbledon is one of the oldest British sporting events, dating back to 1877. It is steeped in history and a certain unique Britishness that requires its spectators to know the tournament’s etiquette and how to behave while attending.
Before you arrive inside the 41-court venue there is a code of conduct regarding queueing (or standing in line). There is even a 25-page guide dedicated to the matter, and with attendance figures of close to half a million during the two weeks of the event, it does make sense to be ruthlessly organised about how people enter the venue.
For those who do not pre-book their tickets, there are 500 tickets that go on sale each day, with a single queue for these tickets at Gate 3. You can join the queue prior to start of play at 9.30am, and some will even stay overnight. If you are an overnighter, you will be politely woken by stewards at around 6am and asked to dismantle your overnight equipment; two man tents are allowed, but not gazebos. You will also be ushered to form a tighter line to create space for more people to join the queue that morning. Alternatively you can queue for late entry after 5pm to view the evening’s tennis.
As you arrive at the end of the Queue you will be issued with a dated and numbered card to show your position in the Queue. This dictates what ticket you will receive. At about 7.30am stewards issue wristbands to those at the front of the Queue for the show courts.
Payment is by cash only. You may not reserve a place in the queue for someone else, other than in their short term absence i.e. for a toilet break or buying refreshments. You are asked to limit the size of your luggage bags.
The atmosphere in the Queue is usually extremely buoyant and friendly, with a common spirit of sportsmanship and enjoying the company of like-minded people. However, do not get carried away as drunken behaviour and the playing of loud music will result in expulsion from the queue. You may order takeaway food to be delivered to the gate at Wimbledon Park Road, but barbecues are not permitted in the Queue. Any Queue-jumpers will be immediately expelled.
For those who do not manage to buy a ticket, there is a great atmosphere to be soaked up on Henman Hill/ Murray Mound, with a large outdoor screen for spectators to watch their heroes at work.
Having negotiated the lengthy but highly civilised queueing process, you will be itching to see some world class tennis. Once play begins, the crowd must stay in their seats and latecomers will not be permitted entry. So make sure you are early! Showing support for your favourite player is fine, but do not boo or jeer their opponent. Absolute quiet is requested before and during any shot, especially serves. Flash photography and ringing mobile phones will get you into trouble and you may even be expelled from the court.
Rather surprisingly, there is quite a longstanding culture of Mexican waves, which are usually performed by the crowd when there is a lull in the match such as a long pause between games or a rain delay. Feel free to join in with gusto.
White clothing is the order of the day for all players, with the ‘predominantly white’ rule of 1963 being replaced by the ‘almost entirely white’ rule of 1995. So there is some room for manoeuvre when it comes to adding the odd splash of colour. Last year was the first year that the All England Club issued a dress code for spectators, neatly summarising it with the quote “No riff-raff, please. We’re Wimbledon.” In general it is best to avoid flip-flops, jeans or exposing too much skin. Keep your hat size down to a minimum or you will obscure the view of the spectators behind you.
Wimbledon is Europe’s largest single annual sporting catering operation with 1800 staff and is synonymous with its delicious Kent-grown strawberries (112,000 punnets served annually), covered in cream (7,000 litres), all washed down with bubbly (25,000 bottles) or the perfect summer Pimm’s (200,000 glasses).
If you plan to attend this year’s tournament, we hope you it enjoy it thoroughly while observing the rather charming and thoroughly effective etiquette. New balls please!