Wimbledon’s online ticket sale descended into chaos on Wednesday as thousands of would-be spectators found themselves unable to complete their purchases because of technical issues.
Up to 110,000 tickets went on sale at 1pm via the Wimbledon website, with another 60,000 available to the Lawn Tennis Association’s Advantage members through a different platform.
It was an unprecedented offering of tickets to one of the world’s most sought-after events. More than a million people had registered for the Wimbledon website by Wednesday afternoon. But the mechanics were complex and the demand intense.
No sooner had the virtual gates opened, at lunchtime, than social-media channels were besieged by frustrated fans. In many cases, the problem was that they had not received their unique code in good time. Without this code – which was supposed to prevent any one individual from buying more than two tickets – it was impossible to complete the purchase.
That was not the only complaint emerging about the system. One Twitter user said that she had “just been on Wimbledon tickets for an hour got through to pay and it wouldn’t accept payment! Now lost my tickets and cannot use my code from Wimbledon email again as it thinks it’s been used! What a sham set up you have. Now sat crying out of sheer frustration.”
Another issue involved the need to make an early decision as to which court you were applying for. As another disappointed customer put it, “One opportunity to use your access code is an absolute joke... so everyone else is booking up the tickets for the only day/court you're allowed to choose, then you get in, they're gone and you can't even choose any alternatives! Absolutely s--- system.”
The Wimbledon website gave would-be purchasers a figure indicating where they were in the online queue. Anyone who plumped for a show court was in danger of seeing an alarmingly large number on their screen. Latecomers found themselves slated at No110,000 or more.
Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton had expressed confidence in the mechanics of Wimbledon’s online platform. “We’re very confident that the infrastructure will hold up,” she told reporters, before adding that “We are also going to be phasing the volume of tickets that we put on sale … If people don’t get tickets in the first round, there is further opportunity.”
Yet The Telegraph understands that there will be no more sales – with the exception of a small number of tickets that have been returned – until the tournament starts on June 28.
Even then, there is still significant uncertainty about the next step in the process. All England Club staff hope that the government’s Event Research Programme will authorise further increases in daily capacity – which now stands at 22,000 rather than the usual 41,000 – as long as there are no alarm bells over Covid transmission or fan behaviour in the first few days.
In this best-case scenario, there will be indeed be further sales to come during the event itself, and they will favour those without busy diaries owing to the short notice period. At this stage, though, the relaxation of government restrictions is far from guaranteed.
The All England Club put out a statement on Wednesday defending their ticket operation. “As expected, we received enormous demand for this initial sale of tickets for The Championships 2021,” it said. “We issued codes to each guest who had registered and opted in so that we could protect the purchase of only one pair of tickets per guest.
“These codes were unique to each individual and were all issued by 12.50pm, ahead of the sale commencing at 1pm. The vast majority of guests have had no issues and successfully purchased tickets. We appreciate the disappointment of those who were not able to get tickets on this occasion, but there will be additional opportunities to purchase tickets for this year's Championships.”