SPORTS fans who paid up to £100 to watch tennis legends including John McEnroe have been served a washout after a £100,000 roof designed to guarantee uninterrupted play failed to keep the rain off the court.
Thousands were left wet and frustrated at Edinburgh’s Brodies Champion of Tennis tournament after the temporary, publically funded enclosure failed to protect the arena from the weekend’s wet weather despite organisers’ promises it would.
Instead, strong winds blew rain on to the court – open air bar the bespoke roof – leaving those who had stumped up for the pricey tickets seeing very little play on Saturday and Sunday.
Some 2,500 fans who paid to watch legends such as Goran Ivanisevic and McEnroe at the Edinburgh Academicals rugby ground in Stockbridge were left waiting as volunteers tried mopping the court with towels.
They expected three matches at Saturday’s sold-out session, but play was suspended for almost four hours. Play did not start until 2:30pm, then after McEnroe lost the first two points, rain returned and play was halted until 6pm. Organisers decided the match would be settled in one set rather than three, with the winner being the first to reach eight games.
McEnroe played one set, Ivanisevic never even started his match and a third match featuring Mark Philippoussis was also scrapped. Yesterday, there were further delays.
Spectators blasted organisers Serve & Volley Ltd, who co-funded the event with Edinburgh council and EventScotland, after the official website had claimed: “The event is being held in central Edinburgh and as our court is covered, there should be no worries about the weather!”
Dozens of people have vented their anger on websites such as Facebook and Twitter, branding the event a shambles and a joke.
Ticket holder Rick Loup, who paid £240 for three Saturday tickets, said: “I want a refund for the £240 I spent on three tickets yesterday. For that £240 I saw five minutes’ play at 2.25pm and, four hours later at 6:15pm, about 90 minutes’ play before very light rain again stopped play.
“I have been cheated and misled. Imagine, for £240 we could have been watching real, competitive tennis in Wimbledon this week.”
Sarah Raey, a scientist from Edinburgh, added: “What was most frustrating was the lack of information. People got angry and formed a crowd round the fenced-off management area but staff just stood metres away, looking at people. ”
Organisers said they did not know if refunds would be available. A spokeswoman for Brodies Champions of Tennis said: “We were assured the roof, designed specifically for this event, would allow play to continue in wet conditions. However, the canopy has proven to be inadequate in the very wet and blustery weather and we are hugely disappointed. We will be looking into the reasons for this in consultation with our contractors.”
However, last night a spokesman for Airsculpt, the Wiltshire company who designed the structure, said they had warned organisers the roof would not withstand “sideways rain”. He said: “This was discussed at the beginning. We said you can’t stop rain being driven in by high winds or freak weather being driven sideways. For that you need a walled system.”
He added: “The rain only came in one side. We knew [the organisers] would not be happy about the unseasonable weather but I can categorically confirm the structure performed just as expected.”
Steve Cardownie, the council’s Festivals and Events Champion, said: “It was disappointing that play was delayed and it is important that the event organisers learn from this.”