Why Wimbledon Leaves $60 Million On Centre Court – Forbes

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Roger Federer during the 2017 Wimbledon men’s singles final. (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)
Wimbledon may be the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, but it’s a laggard when it comes to revenue — deliberately so.
According to official financial records posted by Companies House, Wimbledon generated $289 million in 2017, 6.5% more than last year. By comparison, although 2017 results have not been released yet, a source with knowledge of the figures tells Forbes that the U.S. Open posted revenue of $335 million, a 9.8% gain from 2016.
Why the huge disparity in revenue?
The two Grand Slam tournaments generate revenue from sponsorships, broadcasting rights, tickets, concessions and merchandise. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open do not break down their revenue, but experts I spoke to say Wimbledon gets roughly $160 million from broadcasting rights, $47 million from ticket sales, $47 million from sponsorships and $35 million from concessions and merchandise sales. The U.S. Open’s comparable figures are about $120 million in broadcasting rights, $120 million from tickets, $65 million from sponsorships and $30 million from concessions and merchandise.
The U.S. Open’s $60 million advantage over Wimbledon, then, is largely due to two revenue sources: sponsors and tickets.
Wimbledon, run by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), has always had a sense of tradition. The All England Club committee favors long-term partnerships with trusted sponsors like Rolex, Slazenger and Robinsons Barley Water, which are not allowed to advertise directly on the grounds. The logos on most courts are black, which are barely visible in order to highlight the beauty of the lush light green grass and dark green border. On Centre Court and Court No. 1, the logos are white but minuscule to anyone who isn’t seated in the front row.
Opposing Wimbledon’s sort of clandestine approach, the U.S. Open seizes every opportunity to print its sponsors’ names in bold all around the court, including on the nets.
Why does Wimbledon forego so much advertising money? In an email to Forbes, Mick Desmond, commercial and media director of the AELTC, commented: “Our clean court philosophy is at the heart of our brand and is respected and appreciated by our global partners, both Official Supplier partners and broadcasters. In addition, the consideration we give to limiting the number of partners to ensure we are able to maximize each relationship on its own terms and objectives is also important. Our objective, therefore, is not to maximize revenue in the short term, but to build relationships for the long term that will future-proof The Championships and our partners for years to come.”
The difference in ticket revenue is also a reflection of tradition versus commercialization. Although Wimbledon is getting a bit of a makeover, its Centre Court is roughly the same as it was decades ago. Arthur Ashe Stadium, in contrast, is a blueprint for the modern sports arena. Consequently, the U.S. Open has 23,771 seats, compared with just under 15,000 for Wimbledon’s Centre Court. In 2017, 500,000 came to Wimbledon versus 700,000 for the U.S. Open. In addition, tickets for Wimbledon are cheaper than tickets for the U.S. Open.
The revenue disparity impacts the players. Wimbledon, which begins July 2, will have total prize money of $46.6 million, 7.5% more than last year. Both the men’s and women’s singles champions will take home $3.08 million.
The U.S. Open paid out a total of $50 million in prize money last year, with the men’s and women’s winners each pocketing $3.7 million.
The $40 million advantage in broadcasting revenue that Wimbledon has over the U.S. Open — due to the value of its international rights — illustrates Wimbledon’s global brand strength. The AELTC could, we reckon, ramp up its revenue another $60 million should it become more commercialized.
But it looks like Wimbledon will continue to favor strawberries and cream over bold logos and a plethora of fancy seating.


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