All England Club seeks Government crackdown on touts

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The Independent Online

The All England Club is urging the Government to make ticket-touting at Wimbledon a criminal offence.

Under current legislation touting is illegal at major football matches but not at most other sporting events.

Although Wimbledon makes strenuous efforts to stop the practice, touts who operate outside All England Club grounds can only be told by police to leave the area.

Ian Ritchie, Wimbledon's chief executive, yesterday highlighted the anomaly whereby touts will be able to operate within the law by selling tickets for this summer's championships but would run the risk of prosecution if they tried to do business when the Olympic tennis tournament is held at the All England Club next summer. Touting at the Olympics has been made illegal by an Act of Parliament.

"We believe ticket touting should not be allowed to happen," Ritchie said at the announcement of plans for this summer's tournament.

"We put a lot of time and effort into stopping it ourselves. We fail to see why touting is banned at the Olympics but not at the championships."

Ritchie revealed that the All England Club was also pressing for changes to the current rules whereby overseas players are taxed on their global endorsement income when in Britain.

Individual sportsmen and women are taxed according to how many days they spend in the country, but the legislation does not apply to team sports.

"If Lionel Messi comes here he doesn't get taxed, whereas Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal do and we don't believe that's right," Ritchie said.

Although Ritchie conceded that the rules were unlikely to stop any players from coming to Wimbledon, he said they could affect other events. He also said the legislation could affect whether London keeps the end-of-season Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the end of the current agreement.

Meanwhile, Philip Brook, the All England Club's new chairman, was asked whether he was happy with the way the Lawn Tennis Association spends the annual £25m profits from Wimbledon, especially given the current state of the game in the country.

Brook said that he was focused only on maintaining Wimbledon's status as the best tournament in the world.

This year's singles champions will win £1.1m, a 10 per cent increase on last year.

The overall prize money pot is up by 6.4 per cent to £14.6m.

From 2013 the players will also have improved off-court facilities. A futuristic-looking structure, similar in design to the press box at Lord's cricket ground, will be built above the players' lawn area after the Olympics.

Two new courts – renumbered No 3 and No 4 – will be opened this summer. Court No 3, which will become the fourth to be equipped with Hawk-Eye technology, will have 2,000 seats, of which 1,500 will be sold in advance and 500 available on the day to holders of ground passes.

Bringing the number of courts back up to 19 will see the ground capacity raised by 1,000 to 38,500.

To celebrate the 125th championships, an episode of the Antiques Roadshow will be recorded at the All England Club in August, to be broadcast the following month.