A seat on Centre Court for 19,625 pounds

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The Independent Online
THE HOTTEST tickets in sport are about to go on offer. Stump up a mere pounds 19,625 and a ticket for Wimbledon is yours.

This may not appear the greatest snip of all time, but the latest debenture scheme launched by the All England Club will raise pounds 35.7m towards the cost of redeveloping Wimbledon for the 21st century. And through the club's ingenious 'white market', part of the outlay can be recouped.

Under the scheme, which will be offered to existing debenture holders first, the investment of pounds 19,625 buys a centre court ticket for each day of the championships for five years, from 1996 to 2000, and use of a special lounge at the south London club.

Of the total price, Wimbledon, which is offering 2,100 new debentures, keeps pounds 15,000; pounds 2,000 is returnable after five years and the rest goes on value-added tax. The cost of a Centre Court debenture ticket would thus average pounds 271.15 a day's play over the five years.

Centre Court tickets for this year's tournament range from pounds 19 for the opening Monday to pounds 49 for the men's final, a total of pounds 430 for the 13 days. Successful applicants in the public ballot are restricted to purchasing one pair of tickets for each household.

For the past five years, Wimbledon has organised an 'official white market service' for debenture holders. The club acts as broker for a 10 per cent administrative charge, helping to satisfy the demand for corporate hospitality by buying and reselling debenture seat tickets at 'competitive prices'.

Last year, the 'white market' rate ranged from pounds 200 for the first Monday to pounds 900 for the men's final.

Plans for the club's long-term

rebuilding project were announced last year, with a new No 1 Court the priority.

Since 1922, when the first issue of five-year debentures raised pounds 75,000 to fund the club's move from Worple Road to its current site on Church Road, the system has enabled extensive ground improvements to be made without use of the annual profits from the championships.

These are passed on to the Lawn Tennis Association to finance the British game. Last year's sum of pounds 16.4m brought the pre-tax total since 1981 to more than pounds 100m.

Among the many projects funded by debentures during the past 10 years are the Centre Court extension, the new Centre Court roof and the competitors' pavilion.