Perils & Profits: The Impact Of Wimbledon Fortnight On The Local Community:

If you’re a tennis fan, you’ve presumably been keenly anticipating the start of the 2015 Tennis Championships (29th June – 12th July). Whether watching the action on TV or attending in person, you’ll have two weeks (or more, if it rains) to enjoy the shock eliminations, the loud grunts, the tense tie-breaks, the losers’ tears and the jubilation of the victors, players disputing umpires’ decisions and the vocal support from partisan spectators.

However, as the “Local Guardian” newspaper has pointed out, many residents in the SW18 & SW19 areas have very mixed feelings about the occasion. They dislike the “horrendous traffic” it brings, as well as the “unaccustomed limited walking space on the pavements leading from Southfields underground station”. From there up to 35,000 tennis fans disembark each day of the Championships and then take a taxi, a “shuttle bus service” or just walk the 15 minutes to the Stadium.

Merton Council emphasizes that it implements special measures to cope with the huge influx of people, which amounted to a total of almost 490,000 in 2014. During the Championships, “an average of five tonnes of waste is collected each day from the waiting public outside the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club)”, Merton’s street-cleaning operatives work from 6am to 10pm sweeping “six kilometres of roads” in the vicinity of the Stadium, and the Council tries to ensure that residents can continue to have access to their own properties & parking facilities by providing space for 600 cars in Wimbledon Park.

There are also tangible benefits for the whole neighbourhood. Southfields underground station is “spruced up” and artificial grass laid out on the platforms a few days beforehand; there are far fewer “signal failures” on the District Line from Earls Court to Wimbledon than during the rest of the year; a huge boost is provided for local businesses – especially the restaurants, cafes and newsagents, for whom this is their busiest period..

Equally significantly, as the Daily Telegraph journalist, Ian Cowie, noted on 18th June, “residents can play the tournament to their advantage by letting out their homes to the stars”. He quoted Geraint Jones of chartered accountants Blick Rothenberg as calculating that “a few properties fetch as much as £6,000 for a week’s rent” but that there are also many other “smaller scale” options available, such as “renting a room or a parking space, selling strawberries & cream and allowing souvenir sellers a pitch in your front garden”.

Cowie, however, also warned these householders that “HM Customs & Excise (HMRC) are well aware of what goes on during Wimbledon and have many methods of independently identifying undeclared income”. According to John Whiting, a tax partner with the international accounting organization Price Waterhouse Copers (PwC) the HMRC “checks advertisements for letting accommodation during major events and failure to report the profit can result in a penalty on top of your tax bill”. The ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales) depicts the HMRC as “hawk-eyed”, prepared to chase even small amounts of tax and as taking evasion of tax on short-term letting income very seriously”.

There is another way, of course, to legitimately earn extra money from the tournament: The global security company G4S, in its capacity as “Official Supplier to the 2015 Wimbledon Championships” has recruited “Customer Service Stewards” to work on a “temporary casual basis” for these two weeks. The salary is £7 per hour and includes roles such as “ticket checking, crowd monitoring, gate staff and hospitality stewarding. Successful applicants have had to be at least 18 years of age, preferably with a “general knowledge of tennis and customer service experience”(though neither is essential) and able to travel to and from Wimbledon at their own expense.

Some Stewards have been allocated responsibility for supervising the queues outside the gates. The AELTC operates a very strict “Queue Code of Conduct”: Dedicated fans camping there overnight can only use tents “which accommodate a maximum of two persons”. Barbecues and fires are not permitted, nor are music or ball games after 10pm. A position in “The Queue” cannot be reserved by the placing of equipment – “You must be present in person and hold a valid, numbered and dated Queue Card” (which has to be paid for in cash and is non-transferable) – and it’s not possible to save a place for somebody else, except “in their short term absence”, for example for a “toilet break or purchase of refreshments”.

The Code states categorically that “Queue Jumping is not acceptable” and that neither this, nor excessive consumption of alcohol and/or drunken behaviour will be tolerated. Anyone who breaches these conditions is liable to have their Queue Card confiscated and be refused entry to the Grounds.

Statistics published by the AELTC and the “Radio Times” indicate that the main items consumed during the 2014 Championships were: 28,000 kilos of strawberries, 7,000 litres of dairy cream, 190,000 sandwiches, 28,000 bottles of champagne, 60,000 sausage baguettes, 32,000 portions of fish and chips, 150,000 bath buns, scones, pasties and doughnuts, 30,000 litres of milk, 100,000 pints of draught beer and lager and 350,000 cups of tea or coffee. The total number of tennis balls used during the tournament was 54,250 and the fastest serve was by the Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely – 143 miles per hour

Filed under: Sports | Posted on June 29th, 2015 by Colin D Gordon

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