Simon Read: The real cost of Wimbledon? A parking ticket...


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The Independent Online

What has tennis got to do with money? Everything. Let's face it, the finance industry is full of racketeers while tennis is full of, well, racquets. And both are designed to part you quickly from your hard-earned cash.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club is not shy when it comes to charging for Wimbledon tickets. A Centre Court seat today will set you back at least £74. For next Sunday's men's final prices start at £130 – and that's if you've been lucky enough to get them in the ballot.

That's not bad value compared to the cost of the theatre or concerts, but the joy of learning that you've won a couple of tickets in the ballot can quickly turn to feeling like you're swallowing something hard and jagged when you're then presented with a bill for £260.

But that's not the real cost of Wimbledon. At least not for people like me who live not far from the tennis club in south-west London. While it's exciting to have the whole world descend on your doorstep for two weeks, we're hit every which way by extra costs.

For starters there are opportunistic price hikes. The local fish shop, for instance, has raised the cost of a bag of chips from £1.75 to £2. You can clearly see the sticker with the new, hand-written price. I can't blame businesses for cashing in, but have been pushing for some local loyalty deal. Sadly I got short shrift at the pub when I raised the notion.

But the most annoying thing about Wimbledon are the parking fines. Look, we already have to pay £135 a year to the council (Tory-controlled Wandsworth, as you're asking) to park our old banger outside our house.

But the expensive permit isn't valid during Wimbledon fortnight. Instead we are handed a temporary permit – but if it's not correctly displayed on our car, we get hit with a £40 fine, which doubles to £80 if we don't pay quickly.

So if you shove it casually in the front of the car and it falls off, you get fined, as I discovered last year (don't worry, it's carefully blue-tacked this year!).

The council's traffic wardens are hugely diligent. I see them controlling the streets at 8.30am and 7.30pm. They may wonder what that constant grinding noise is behind them. It's my teeth.

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