THE BLOG

Wimbledon's Murray Mount Is No Place for Real Tennis Fans

26/06/2013 11:48 BST | Updated 26/08/2013 10:12 BST

One of the joys of recent Wimbledons, we are told, has been the massed ranks of supporters gathering on the patch of grass formerly known as Henman Hill.

In scenes more in keeping with last summer's Jubilee celebrations than a major sporting event, the terrace at the back of Court One has been commandeered by flag-waving picnickers, cheering at a giant TV screen as excitable television reporters weave amongst them.

This mound, previously used as a quick pit-stop for supporters charging between courts, has grown into a monster, a destination in its own right.

Is this a good thing for the Championships? Not if you're a tennis fan.

Genuine lovers of the game are over at Court 16, watching the final set of a doubles classic, sitting so close they can catch every stray ball and overhear the players' deliberations.

A grounds pass in the opening days is one of the greatest £20s any sports fan can spend, but it's nothing to do with plonking yourself on a blanket and watching BBC1.

This may seem nothing more than a whinge, but it matters, this year more than ever.

After record queues, apparently fuelled by a combination of Murray fever and last summer's Olympics, attention has rightly focused on the empty seats visible on the show courts during televised matches.

Even Gary Lineker spotted it, tweeting: "What a waste of tickets so many could give their right arm for #wimbledon."

Of course, there are few sights more galling than watching businessmen on their Blackberries in the champagne tent.

For the record, Pippa Middleton's brother gawping down on the Centre Court wasn't welcome either.

But we know that happens at Wimbledon, and the authorities aren't about to do anything about it.

How about the thousands of grounds tickets taken up by people who want to do nothing more than eat their sandwiches, wave flags and watch TV?

It means increasingly few places are available to those for whom Wimbledon is an annual opportunity to actually watch some tennis.

On the first day of the Championships, the day's 8,000 grounds tickets had been swallowed up before 8am - unheard of in recent years.

And while this is a pathetically small allocation, questions do have to be asked about whether the grounds tickets share should be further depleted by Murray fans with no interest in watching live sport.

It would be daft to deny people the right to pack out the hill, and if it raises the profile of tennis in this country it's to be welcomed.

But should these guys be in the same queue as those hoping to watch the real stuff?

Separate ticket allocations, with an option to sit on the hill and not visit the courts, would help everyone.

It would reduce queuing time, free up thousands of grounds passes - and provide some light relief for tennis fans already squeezed out by Wimbledon's corporate brigade.