Wimbledon Denies Imposing Politically Correct 'Ball Kids' Name Change

Wimbledon bosses have denied they've changed the names of ball boys and girls to 'Ball Kids' in an act of political correctness.

According to a newspaper report today, Sue Barker twice used the description on BBC1 as she reported on the Duchess of Cornwall meeting 'ball kids' during her visit to the tournament.

And a report on the All England Club's described how Camilla had greeted a 'row of ball kids'.

It follows repeated use of the 'ball kids' expression during BBC 5 Live's coverage of the recent French Open.

Commentators are said to find it less cumbersome than saying 'ball boys and ball girls', and snappier than 'ball children'.

Tennis sponsors are also helping the drive to eradicate the traditional ball boy by increasingly using the new phrase, the Mail reports.

Barclays runs an X Factor-style 'ball kids' competition to select youngsters aged 12 to 16 to collect balls at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Entitled The Barclays Ball Kids Programme, it uses regional and national trials to whittle down around 2,500 applicants to just 30, who are then trained to help on the court.

But Wimbledon spectators aren't keen on the name change.

Martha Stephens, 54, who was attending her third Championships, told the Mail: "It just sounds like they are trying to make tennis cool. Wimbledon doesn't need to be cool, it has decades of tradition."

Ball boys were first used at Wimbledon in 1920, and were originally provided by Shaftesbury Homes for deprived children.

Ball girls were introduced to the Championships in 1977 and they first appeared on Centre Court eight years later.

There are 250 ball boys and girls working at this year's Championships, made up of volunteers from local schools who got through a rigorous selection process.

A BBC spokesman said: "The use of 'ball kids' is occasionally used in tennis commentary but less so than 'ball girl' and 'ball boy'.

"There is no official BBC policy on this and it is often dependent on how much time a commentator has to describe a situation rather than an intentional or required use of either."

A Wimbledon spokesman said it had no plans to stop using the phrases 'ball boys' and 'ball girls'.