The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club announced yesterday it will sell 2,520 Wimbledon debenture tickets (the noble-sounding name for “season tickets”) at the price of $104k a pop, a 60% price increase.
But before all you foreign Federer fans get your white shorts in a bunch, be warned — the debenture system is rigged in favor of the royal hineys that have watched Wimbly for decades.
The devil’s in the debentures
Unlike American single-year season tix, Wimbledon sells them in 5-year bundles. Over the 5-year lifespan, there are 65 days of tennis played, meaning each day is worth $1,605. So — why such a premium?
First, the resale market is as strong as Queen Elizabeth’s morning cup of Earl Grey: Last year, a buyer who purchased a $66k 5-year debenture sold just 2 years of tickets for $138k.
But the real reason is even simpler: Wimbledon is, quite literally, created by — and for — royalty.
A sporting event fit for a queen
Since 1868, the All England Club’s lawn tennis championships have been the place for the upper crust to mix and mingle (the club’s current president is Prince Edward, Duke of Kent).
Like the British monarchy, Wimbledon’s debenture tickets are hereditary; Several of the richest and royal-est Brit families have held the debentures since 1920 — so if Prince Harry isn’t your 2nd cousin, you better have a comfortable tent.
Debenture-owning derrières still fill 16.7% of Wimbledon’s seats, and after accounting for media and other reserved seats, only 53.5% of seats are actually open to the public.
The debenture days are far from over
Yesterday’s sale will serve up a cool $260m to the Club, which plans to spend the cash on a new retractable roof (gotta keep the queen cozy) and a neighboring golf course that will cost a cool $85m.
In Britain, debentures are unrestricted financial instruments that are traded in stock markets. So these debentures will eventually sell at massively marked-up margins: Single days this season are already going for $6k+.
It’s a good lesson: Whether you’re sampling strawberries & cream or you’re devouring corn dogs and Bud Lights in a mustard-stained Tom Brady jersey, you can always buy box seats — for the right price.