April 23 (Bloomberg) -- The Wimbledon tennis championships won’t raise ticket prices even after it announced the biggest prize-money increase ever seen in tennis and plans to build a second retractable roof.
The All England Club, which organizes the annual grass-court Grand Slam tournament in southwest London, today said it would boost prize money for this year’s event by 40 percent to 22.6 million pounds ($34.5 million). The 6.5 million-pound increase is the largest ever in player compensation, while the total purse is the biggest in the history of the sport.
“All of our plans here are funded in a way that will not affect ordinary fans coming to Wimbledon,” All England Club Chairman Phil Brook said in an interview at Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
A ground pass for the first week of Wimbledon costs 20 pounds.
Brook declined to comment on the total investment in player compensation and a roof over No. 1 Court, instead saying “it’s all affordable” with the funding coming from “existing resources.”
The men’s and women’s singles champions for this year’s tournament -- which starts June 24 -- will receive 1.6 million pounds each, or 39 percent more than last year. Just like in 2012, Wimbledon saved the biggest increases for early-round losers. An exit in the first three rounds of the main draw will be rewarded by as much as 64 percent more pay, while players in the qualifying tournament will receive 41 percent more. An exit in the opening round will be rewarded with 23,500 pounds, or 62 percent more.
“A lot of the increase is going toward players who lose in the early rounds or in our qualifying tournament,” Brook said. “This is a large group of players, who are not particularly wealthy. They are players who are making their way onto the tour, and we think it’s important to support that group.”
After meetings between the four majors -- the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon -- and the men’s tennis tour in March last year, the French Open was the first to change its distribution of prize money by increasing pay for the early rounds of the main draws as well as the qualifying tournament in 2012.
That followed calls from players, including third-ranked Andy Murray of Britain and second-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland, for a more even distribution of revenue generated by the majors. After Roland Garros, the three other majors all followed suit, boosting their total prize-money purses and increasing pay in the earlier rounds.
“The latest prize-money increases announced by Wimbledon complete a successful set of discussions for the ATP with all four Grand Slams regarding player compensation,” Brad Drewett, executive chairman and president of the ATP World Tour, said in an e-mailed statement.
The Grand Slams generate significant revenue, and the ATP said that all players should share in money, Drewett said.
French Open finalist Sara Errani of Italy also welcomed the increases.
“To improve, you need people around you, such as a physical trainer and a coach, and that’s not easy to do for everybody,” world No. 7 Errani said in an interview from Stuttgart, Germany. “This should make it much better.”
The prize-money pot at next month’s French Open in Paris is a tournament-record 22 million euros ($28.6 million), or 3 million euros more than last year. That compares with A$30 million ($30.1 million) at this year’s Australian Open, and $29.5 million at the 2013 U.S. Open.
Winning the Australian Open remains the most lucrative of the four majors for singles champions, with Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus each taking home A$2.43 ($2.49 million) this year.
Wimbledon is also investing in improvements on its site at London’s Church Road, where it has been located since 1922.
The club is planning to build a retractable roof over No. 1 Court by 2019. Centre Court has had a retractable roof since 2009, which cost 80 million pounds, the Times of London reported at the time. The championships have frequently been hampered by rain.
Wimbledon also plans to build three new courts north of No. 1, new player accommodations and landscaping that aims to give fans the experience of “tennis in an English garden.”
Brook rejected calls from broadcasters such as the British Broadcasting Corp. to show more night matches under the lights with the roof closed.
In an interview with Bloomberg News last year, Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said she “would love” to see more tennis played at night as it attracts more viewers. The U.S. and Australian Open both have night sessions, while the French Open plans schedule evening matches once it has one of its main courts covered.
“Fundamentally, we are a day-time outdoor tournament,” Brook said. “We don’t need to be a day-and-night tournament in terms of revenue generation, and our roof on Centre Court was built primarily for rain protection, and the same will be true for No. 1 Court.”
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