Court circular: Cloud scarcity means no silver lining for the touts

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The Independent Online
Not everyone is relishing the glorious sunshine currently being enjoyed at Wimbledon.

Tickets touts, long the bane of Wimbledon officialdom, are complaining that the weather is too good for business.

"It's so nice that no one's selling tickets to us - they all want to go themselves," says Billy, a printer, who takes two weeks' holiday every years to work at Wimbledon.

The only consolation is that the scarcity of tickets makes for high prices.

Centre court tickets yesterday were going for pounds 250 and for the best seats at the final the bidding will start at pounds 500.

Competition among the touts is fierce with an estimated 400 operating outside Wimbledon. That is enough to persuade Billy not to take up the profession full time.

"Most of these lads do concerts, football, boxing - anything really. You have to be careful not to upset them," he says.

"I'm happy just doing this fortnight. No disrespect to Chelsea fans - I go there myself - but it's a nicer crowd here than at Stamford Bridge."

Department of Transport officials, surveying one of the outside courts at Wimbledon as part of the plan to expand the M11 southwards towards the M25, halt their excavations when they discover what looks like a British seed . However, after closer examination it turns out to be a maple leaf. Well, actually, it's members of the All England Club's ground staff taking measurements, such as grass type, colour, growth rate and durability, in order to maintain the high quality of the courts.

Garden gnomes cash in

The touts are not the only entrepreneurs operating along the Wimbledon Park Road, leading down from Southfields tube station. There is the usual proliferation of refreshment and unofficial merchandise stalls.

For some it is a serious business. One trader, known only as "Franco", is renting three front gardens at pounds 1,000 a fortnight as well as half a garage's showroom opposite the tube station to sell T-shirts, a snip at pounds 6. He rates Wimbledon as his most lucrative fortnight of the year.

Others are not so ruthless about their profit margins. Dominique Mason is selling fine sandwiches, cakes, salads and cold drinks from the front garden at No 195 but claims there is little money to be made.

"I'm just doing this for fun," she says. "Maybe we'll make some pocket money but we either had to get out for two weeks or enjoy the experience."

Snap shots

Do you recognise the tennis player pictured here? If you do, you can win a bottle of fine port by phoning 0891-252630. Three winners will each be sent a bottle of Quinta do Noval 10-year-old tawny port, delicious chilled for the summer. Your call will cost about 25p. The winners will be selected at random from all the correct entries received before 4pm today. We regret the competition does not extend to the Republic of Ireland. Normal Independent competition rules apply. Answer and another competition tomorrow.

Yesterday's snap shot was of Pete Sampras and the three winners are: Vincent Dalton of London SW14, David Ramsey of Newton Abbot, Devon, and Peter Fogarty of Leeds.