Making money on your investments has been a challenge for everyone in recent years but some Wimbledon debenture holders have been laughing all the way to the bank. One of the current holders recently sold a 2011-2015 debenture – which cost £27,750 and gives the owner one Centre Court ticket for every day of the Championships for five years – for a remarkable £90,000.
With only two years left on the current debentures, that means the purchaser paid £90,000 for 26 Centre Court tickets (one ticket for every day at this year’s and next year’s Championships) at an average cost of £3,462 per ticket.
The top price at this year’s tournament is £148 for a ticket on men’s final day.
The main reason why such high prices are paid is that if you own a current Centre Court debenture you go to the top of the priority list for the next issue. That will happen this spring, with the price for 2016-2020 debentures to be announced on 24 April. The final deadline for applications for the debentures, which are used to finance capital projects at the All England Club, will be 6 June.
Existing No 1 Court debenture holders will be second on the priority list for the new debentures. If the issue is over-subscribed, a ballot will be held. In such circumstances, no one will be allowed to buy more than two.
Wimbledon will not reveal the price it is contemplating for the 2016-2020 debentures, but they could cost in the region of £60,000, which is partly a reflection of the remarkable value that the 2011-2015 issue proved to be. The price then was a reflection of the economic climate at the time, which was more uncertain even than today.
While all other ticket holders are not allowed to sell on their tickets (which are distributed via a heavily oversubscribed public ballot or through tennis clubs and LTA British Tennis membership), debenture holders can sell them wherever and whenever they want. They can sell them, individually or en bloc, either privately – for example to companies offering corporate hospitality – or via Wimbledon’s own “official market”.
Wimbledon is buying back tickets for this year’s Championships at prices which represent a huge profit for 2011-2015 debenture holders (who could probably make an even greater profit elsewhere). Wimbledon’s buy-back prices this year include £1,200 for a single ticket for the second Wednesday (men’s quarter-finals day, weather permitting), £2,400 for the final Sunday and £9,900 for one ticket for all 13 days. Wimbledon then sells on these buy-back tickets, often to other debenture holders.
Nevertheless, despite the investment opportunities few debenture holders sell on all their tickets. The majority are tennis fans who want to guarantee their seats at the Championships and like to take advantage of the exclusive restaurants and bars available to debenture holders.
Ever since the All England Club used debentures to raise £88,000 towards the £140,000 cost of building Centre Court in the 1920s, they have been a vital means of funding capital projects. A total of £250m has been raised through debenture issues since the first. In recent years debentures have helped to finance the construction of the Centre Court roof, the new No 2 and No 3 Courts and the museum.
“This is an exercise in investing in the future to keep our Championships at the pinnacle of the sport,” Phil Brook, the Wimbledon chairman, said yesterday.
Funds are now needed to support the All England Club’s new “Master Plan”, which includes a retractable roof over No 1 Court and many more changes to the grounds.
A huge building project is currently under way at the site to provide underground facilities beneath Courts No 14 and No 15 and underground access to the Millennium Building from the current car park in Somerset Road.