WIMBLEDON bosses have pledged to keep Britain’s grand slam tennis tournament on free-to-air broadcasting “in the foreseeable future”.
Chief executive Richard Lewis ruled out the All England Lawn Tennis Club shifting part of Wimbledon’s coverage to subscription services.
The Wimbledon finals are among the ten ‘crown jewels’ events that must be screened live on terrestrial television by law.
Lewis pledged that Wimbledon chiefs have no plans to move any of the coverage away from the BBC, after announcing rises in tournament prize money for the fourth year running.
“There was a lot of speculation. It was pretty wild speculation,” said Lewis about rumours Wimbledon would seek a pay TV deal.
“The fact is that it’s our decision. There’s absolutely no intention to go down that route whatsoever.
“We have a very, very strong relationship with the BBC and we feel it works very well. And we see absolutely no reason to change that.
“Never say never, but not in the foreseeable future.”
Wimbledon chiefs defended boosting prize money for the fourth consecutive year, handing the singles winners £1.88 million in 2015.
Tournament chairman Philip Brook insisted tennis’ top stars are not overpaid, despite Wimbledon hiking prize money again.
Brook said the tournament will once again offer the “highest prize money ever in professional tennis” in 2015. The singles winners’ prize funds have risen seven per cent from £1.76m in 2014; in the last four years, Wimbledon’s overall prize fund has jumped from £14.6m in 2011 to £26.75m in 2015.
“Without the world’s best tennis players, we wouldn’t have the world’s best tennis tournament,” Brook said.
“And we recognise the players are an essential ingredient of our championships.
“The level of prize money is affordable to this championship, so we feel it’s important that we should reflect that in what we pay the players.
“I think you’ve seen now that some other tournaments are reacting to what we did two years ago, so there are some big increases in other grand slams and other Masters events in response to what we did two years ago.”
Brook confirmed Wimbledon bosses were “reluctantly” forced to turn down the chance to host Great Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final. Queen’s Club will stage the clash with France from 17 to 19 July, with Brook admitting the tie was scheduled too soon after Wimbledon to prove viable.
This year’s Wimbledon tournament will run from 29 June to July 12, moved back a week to allow extra preparation after the French Open.
“We took a look at hosting the Davis Cup at Wimbledon, and we took some very sound advice and we were counselled not to do it,” Brook said.
“The week after the championships there’s a lot of work going on at the site, and there are things that need to happen in that first week.
“Irrespective of whether we were hosting Davis Cup, those things would need to go ahead.
“And the advice we were given was that we could damage not only the build-up to our own championships but also not do a very good job of the Davis Cup tie, to host it so soon after Wimbledon.
“So reluctantly we said we weren’t available, and obviously we wish the British team the best of luck and the Queen’s Club the best of luck hosting the tie.”
Brook refused to rule out staging a Davis Cup semi-final in September should Britain see off the French, but conceded that a final in November would not be possible.
“We’ve hosted ties in September in the past, so I think that’s a decision that we’ll think about if it comes to pass,” he said.
“I think September really is the limit (for an outdoor tennis event in the UK). I think people know we’ve done it in the past on number one court.”
2015: £1.88 million
2014: £1.76 million
2015: £340,000 per pair
2014: £325,000 per pair
Mixed doubles winners
2015: £100,000 per pair
2014: £96,000 per pair
Overall prize fund
2015: £26.75 million
2014: £25 million
2013: £22.56 million
2012: 16.06 million
2011: £14.6 million