Wimbledon moves to future: All England Club expansion project towards approval?

London's deputy mayor Jules Pipe will decide in the coming weeks whether the project will be approved, but there is optimism

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Wimbledon moves to future: All England Club expansion project towards approval?
© Getty Images Sport Getty Images Sport

There may have been a turning point towards approval of the All England Club expansion plan. Wandsworth Council refused planning permission in November and the proposal, which ended up under the auspices of the Greater London Authority, appeared to have stranded.

But the news that arrived a few days ago seems to be able to reverse the fate of the project. Jules Pipe, the deputy mayor of London, will be called upon to decide whether the expansion of the All England Club will be confirmed or not.

This comes after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stepped back on this issue, due to his public support for the plans for 2021.

All England Club© Andrew Redington / Staff Getty Images Sport

Debbie Jevans talked on the topic, underlining the importance of the decision being sent back to the mayor's offices.

"Our proposals will deliver one of the biggest sporting transformations for London since the 2012 Olympics. We are committed to delivering significant social, economic and environmental improvements. The aim is to create hundreds of jobs generating millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbors of Merton and Wandsworth and, more generally, across London.

Protecting the future of the Championships as well as significantly increasing publicly accessible green space is a win-win for Londoners. We will prove beyond any doubt that London is the sporting capital of the world." Merton Council has approved the plans but, as the park is protected as Metropolitan Open Land, both approval is required.

This contrasts with strong opposition from local people, which led to a petition of 16,000 signatures. "The plans as they currently stand are harmful to public access to green spaces, Londoners' lungs and our environment. The GLA is a world-leading local authority when it comes to putting the health of Londoners first and our environment.

It is correct that this request has London-wide implications and therefore needs further consideration," explained Fleur Anderson of the Labor Party and Stephen Hammond of the Conservative Party, who are opposed to the proposal.

All England Club© Michael Regan / Staff Getty Images Sport

A few months ago, in an exclusive interview granted to Tennis World USA, Sally Bolton OBE, Chief executive of the Championships, spoke to us about future projects regarding the facilities and courts of the All England Club "We want to transform community amenities in the local area by creating a brand new public park, the first of its kind since the London Olympics.

As part of these plans, we are also proposing to build a third indoor court, which will be a major step forward for Championships and will bring us in line with other Grand Slams. We are fully focused on the planning application currently being considered by local authorities to secure the future of the Championships by bringing the qualifying event here at SW19, from its current home in Roehampton.

We hope this gives players an even better experience of our qualifying event and allows many more spectators the opportunity to watch the qualifying matches," she explained.

How many courts does the All England Club currently host?

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was founded in 1868 as the All England Croquet Club, and held its first croquet competition in 1870.

The first Wimbledon tournament was held in 1877 and the association changed its name to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. In 1882 the word croquet was dropped from the name as tennis had become the main activity.

But in 1889 it was restored, probably for sentimental reasons, constituting the current name. Today it still operates as a normal tennis club - although it organizes one of the biggest tournaments in the world, with 375 full-time members - 100 temporary and many honorary, including former tournament champions.

The club is also home to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and still has a croquet lawn. Currently - waiting to know what will happen in the next few weeks with the expansion plan - the All England Club has a total of 19 tennis courts plus training courts, including the historic Center Court.

Grass pitches can be used between May and September. Wimbledon is a district of London, part of the London borough of Merton, located in the south-western outskirts of the English capital, approximately 10 kilometers from the city centre, and is also home to the Wimbledon and Putney Commons.

The village developed with a stable rural population that coexisted with the city's nobility and wealthy merchants. In the 18th century the Dog and Fox pub became a stop on the stagecoach from London to Portsmouth, then in 1838 the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) opened a station south-east of the village at the foot of Wimbledon Hill.

Since 2005, the north and west of the borough have been represented in Westminster by Stephen Hammond, a Conservative MP. The east and south of the district are represented by Siobhain McDonagh, a Labor MP.