Wimbledon 2013: Kim Cattrall is lovely, but the Royal Box should have more worthy guests

I can see the attraction of putting celebrities in the front row, but shouldn’t those seats also be open to charity workers, community organisers and other “ordinary people”

Share

Footage of John McEnroe winning Wimbledon in 1981 reveals how, while tennis may have been transformed since then – serve and volley no longer dominates the game, and no finalist would be seen dead with a wooden racket  – many things have remained unchanged in three decades. As in the 1980s, today there are, thankfully, still none of the  adverts running around the court that are so familiar at football matches, despite the heavy pressure there must be to accept corporate sponsorship at courtside.

In 1981, when McEnroe defeated his deadly rival Bjorn Borg, among those admirers cheering him at Centre Court was the young bride-to-be Lady Diana Spencer, clapping adoringly from the Royal Box. Missing from this year’s tournament is the Duchess of Cambridge, who went on maternity leave just before it started, but there are still the royals and the nearly-royals – Pippa and Carole Middleton – taking their seats on the dark-green wicker chairs.

Members of the royal family love their tennis, of course – from Henry VIII’s establishment of “real tennis” to the support that the Duchess of Kent has given the All England Tennis Club over the years. (When I was growing up, I thought she was a tennis player herself, so familiar was her silver-blonde bob at Wimbledon finals.) It’s not surprising, or objectionable, to see royals in the Royal Box. But this prime viewing area is huge – 74 seats, in fact – so the All England Club makes up the numbers with tennis legends, corporate partners, members of the British armed forces and, I should add, newspaper executives. But, with each year there seem to be more and more celebrities than ever before to cheer on Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Sir Bruce Forsyth is there every year. We all remember Sir Cliff Richard singing when the rain came down, before the roof was installed. This week we’ve had Vernon Kay, Tess Daly, Darcey Bussell, Kim Cattrall and, the royals’ favourite, Katharine Jenkins.

I can see the attraction of putting celebrities in the front row, as it makes for good pictures alongside the tennis players. I don’t object to seeing Mo Farah teaching Brucie how to do the Mobot in the break between matches. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if those 74 seats, and the accompanying hospitality, were also open to those who work for charities, community organisations or simply individuals who have achieved great things  – “ordinary people” with extraordinary stories?

It would be easy enough to round up some worthy invitees – the list of those (non-celebrities) who have received honours in that year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours would be a good place to start. You’ve been given the royal seal of approval by Her Majesty, so here’s a ticket for Centre Court to go with your MBE.

Or what about Victoria Adom, the lollipop lady who was part of the Westminster Abbey celebratory service to mark 60 years since the Queen’s coronation? She wouldn’t have to wear her hi-vis jacket this time. How about some tennis-mad schoolchildren from deprived areas? Surely this is preferable to the roll-call of celebrities who, it has to be said, seem to leave their seats empty for long periods during the day?

The Queen herself hardly ever goes – just twice during her reign – supposedly because she doesn’t even like tennis. (She also, incidentally, doesn’t go to the opera much, so the Royal Box at the Royal Opera House is untroubled by royalty.) So the All England Club should open it up to her subjects. If we are funding a 5.2 per cent pay rise for Her Majesty, maybe the people can get something in return?

Since McEnroe’s day, the All England Club has become more progressive, in many ways. McEnroe was regarded with snooty disapproval from the Club because of his railing against line judges. Today his sort of behaviour would still not be tolerated, but a player would no longer be ostracised as McEnroe was until his recent rehabilitation through BBC commentary.

Many of the tickets for Centre Court are allocated through local tennis clubs across the country, giving aspiring youngsters the opportunity to see at close hand how the professionals do it. But more needs to be done to widen access to tennis on all levels. Judy Murray, Andy’s mother and Britain’s Fed Cup captain, recently complained that the Lawn Tennis Association was failing to introduce enough free public courts to give greater access to what is still a middle-class and elitist sport.

The LTA needs to act on her words, and quickly. Besides fulfilling its promise to boost free tennis courts, it could also devise a tennis competition for the best young players across the country to win seats in the Royal Box.

Beyond the exclusive area, the crowd at Centre Court represents the best of British impartiality. Despite the Union Jack hats and facepaint, those watching are generous to players from other countries. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki was cheered to the rails of the retractable roof when she beat Serena Williams on Monday.

The crowd loves giving an underdog a lift, and does so politely and generously. It would be wonderful if that sense of wanting to help people on their way up permeated to all areas of Centre Court – the Royal Box included.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Going viral on YouTube stopped me feeling like a ghost - and made me speak out about mental illness

Alika Agidi-Jeffs
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would tackle our looming dementia crisis

Susan Greenfield
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee