I presume her underwear was Chanel because everything I could see had the logo on it. Trailing behind her was a daughter, also entirely dressed in Chanel, with a Chanel iPhone too. As she sat, we said hello.
There is a sort of negotiation that happens at Wimbledon. Everyone sitting in the Debenture seats is there because they are Debenture holders, or because they paid — substantially — for the privilege.
And so, the dance began.
This woman had bought the tickets from her concierge that morning – undoubtedly the most eye-wateringly expensive way to gain entry. Wimbledon is like everywhere else – the earlier you book, the more affordable the ticket. Although I ’ m not sure affordable is ever the word.
The Chanel-decked daughter seemed to pay no attention to the game, spending the whole day sighing with boredom while glued to her phone.
Three of my long-term-relationships have been with women who love tennis. I seem to have a type. My wife is a Centre Court Debenture holder at Wimbledon. Lucky me. Debenture Holders “ buy” two tickets for every day of the tournament for a five-year period and are then allowed to resell those tickets, keeping back the tickets they actually want to use. Debenture tickets are the only Wimbledon tickets which can legally be resold by the holder.
The only downside is the presence of otherwise delightful American tennis fans, who expect this Brit to be totally knowledgeable about the occupants of the Royal Box, their intimate relationships and qualifications. I usually have no idea.
Debenture holders get access to “ exclusive” restaurants and bars, all very nice, but more expensive than the general catering outlets. You also get to watch the fashion victims at play.
The US Open led the way with equal pay for women in 1973. Wimbledon was a bit slow but finally caught up in 2007; now all the grand slam tournaments pay men and women equal prize money.
At the start of each year ’ s tournament Wimbledon publishes the price it will pay for any returned tickets, and the price each Debenture Holder can pay for additional tickets they wish to buy. The cost of each ticket is different on different days. There are many matches on each day, but the price point is driven by the singles matches.
The cost can vary right up to the last minute, based on who gets through each round. For example, if the star British player Emma Raducanu gets far in the competition this year, prices for her matches will become more expensive. This is an independent market, responding to market forces.
Friends who hear we have Debenture tickets often assume we can get (or even give) them tickets for the tournament. We can get them, but they are universally horrified by the cost.
This year, the prices start at £850 sell / £1100 buy per ticket on the first few days of the tournament, rising to £2650/£3200 on the last day – the Men ’ s Singles Final.
One day before the end of the tournament – Women ’ s Final day – the prices are as “ low” as £950/£1150. The lowest priced day of the tournament is £650/£825: that ’ s on the day of the Women ’ s Semi Finals.
We have often gone on Women ’ s semi-final day, and have always seen some cracking tennis.
The Wimbledon crowd, though, doesn ’ t value women’s tennis.
In fact, the market price for a women’s match averages about 35% of the Men ’ s match price. The men play the best of five sets to the women ’ s best of three sets, so one could argue that the price per set for a women ’ s match is about 50% of the men ’ s price. Either way, the audience is not prepared to pay as much to watch women ’ s matches.
So, should the prize money be the same?
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