The All England Club was accused last night of treating a long-standing customer as "a criminal" and for having lax security after the fan was able to enter Centre Court on Monday with tickets that had already been reported as stolen. The seats had been bought in good faith.
Yumiko Hanasaka, originally from Tokyo but a long-term resident in Britain, is a "big tennis fan" who has attended the championships for years. For Wimbledon 2009, her husband bought tickets via gumtree.com, an online classified ads website. He made sure to buy top-class debenture seats, which are legally sellable on the secondary market, unlike non-debenture seats. Trading in non- debentures is banned.
Mrs Hanasaka and her husband duly took their places on Monday afternoon to enjoy Roger Federer's opening match and other action. After some time, they were approached and told they were in someone else's seats, and the tickets they had bought were stolen. The couple were taken to the Club's on-site security office, asked for details about how they had bought their tickets, and then after the police had been called, they were escorted from the premises.
"It was totally unacceptable how they treated us," Mrs Hanasaka told The Independent last night. "They took all the information from us, but no replacement seat was offered then we were thrown into the street.
"I also think this highlights Wimbledon's loose security surrounding tickets. The tickets had been reported as stolen so how were we allowed in? Debenture tickets can be legally resold. "There is no reason I shouldn't buy from a classified ad site or any third party. We were treated like criminals and I want an apology from the Club and from the debenture department."
The All England Club told The Independent last night that the tickets had indeed been stolen from their original owner, nicked from a car and then resold. The theft of the tickets was reported to the police and to the Club, who "cancelled" the originals and issued replacements to the rightful owners.
The Club also acknowledged that the cancelled tickets should have been identified before the couple took their seats, and they should have been denied access to the seats. But there was an oversight as an unnamed steward failed to recognise the tickets as stolen even though stewards are provided with such data.
A Club spokesman said: "This is an unfortunate incident but it does highlight what we always say. Before you buy tickets from any source that is not an officially recognised outlet, do check with the ticket office that what you're buying is a genuine, valid ticket."
The ticket incident does not alter the Diary's view that the Championships are the best organised and most democratic sporting event in the world, bar none. The Club oozes the kind of class that most sports arenas can only dream of, although the high standards of protocol do create minor headaches for some players. Andy Murray, for example, had remove the label from the bottle of water provided by one of his sponsors, Highland Spring.
Oddest press release of the year, and possibly ever, comes from a firm, Sunbaba, who have something to do with screens, we think, including at tennis tournaments. It's not altogether clear, but who can fail to love a company that uses lines like: "With support from the client and the scaffolders, Sunbaba and Nawrocki Alpin were able to install a really great looking scrim, with a wonderful finish."
The Diary is heartened that Anna Kournikova has topped a poll of the sexiest female tennis player of all time. On one occasion a few years back, the Diary for reasons far too convoluted to detail here was obliged to ask her the size of her bra. She couldn't have been sweeter, or more radiant, in declining to answer.
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Today Warm, sunny and dry all day. No rain expected and little chance of cloud. Maximum temperature of 23°C.
Outlook Warm and sunny tomorrow, highs of 25°C with risk of cloud. Friday will be hot, 27°C, with an increased risk of showers.
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