What’s the ‘All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club’ (AELTC)?

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, or AELTC, is a private members club. The Club is also most commonly known as the venue for the annual Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

The founding of Wimbledon

The AELTC was established 153 years ago in 1868, and is responsible for the upkeep and operation of the Wimbledon tennis grounds.

The Club was founded by John Henry Walsh and Henry Jones, editors of a local magazine called The Field, who established the original club on a site in Worple Road in Wimbledon, two miles south of where the championships are played today.

The Club was initially created as a croquet club during the height of a croquet craze that swept across the United Kingdom in the 1800s. Tennis was only introduced in 1875 when the Club set aside one of its grass fields for its members to play tennis on.

Two years later, in July 1877, the Club held its first gentleman’s tennis championship, which was won by British player Spencer Gore.

That was also notably the same year the Club changed its name to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which was further changed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1899 to reflect its heritage.

The most prestigious tournament in the world

The AELTC’s tennis tournaments quickly established themselves as the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Ladies’ singles and men’s doubles events were added in the 1884 edition of The Championships, while ladies and mixed doubles were later added in 1913.

Since then, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships have been held 134 times, with the grand slam having only been cancelled twice in its history; once in 1945 due to the Second World War, and more recently in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AELTC started to grow in the early 1900s and moved to Church Road in Wimbledon Park in 1922.

At Church Road, the Club started to improve its facilities and opened its second court, Court One, in 1924. The addition of Court One allowed more matches to be played on the site and enabled more spectators to see the tennis.

In recent years, the AELTC grounds have expanded to include 18 championship grass courts, which are open to members from May to September each year.

Regeneration

In 1993 the AELTC announced that the facility would be undergoing a long-term regeneration project. That project would include the installation of the famous retractable roof over Centre Court in 2009, along with the addition of a new 4,000-seat stadium on Court Two the same year.

AELTC membership

The AELTC is a private club that hosts 350 full members and 100 elected temporary members. The club also hosts a number of honorary members, including all former tournament winners who receive lifetime memberships upon winning the All England Championships.

Full members must be invited to join the club by existing members who have known them for at least three years.

Wimbledon Debentures

The All England Club also issues debentures to tennis fans every five years to help raise funds for the development and upkeep of the grounds.

Wimbledon Debentures guarantee their owners a pair of tickets for each day of the Championships over five years. Debenture ticket seats offer an unparalleled view of Centre Court and Court No 1 matches, and Debenture tickets also provide access to exclusive lounges and restaurants within the grounds.

The Future of the AELTC

In 2018 the AELTC agreed a £65m compensation deal with their neighbours, The Wimbledon Park Golf Club, to take over their land at the end of 2021.

The AELTC’s aim is to continue to grow and keep pace with its Grand Slam rivals, the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open. In 2019, the club installed a retractable roof over Court One, asserting the Championships’ position as the most prestigious tournament on the tennis calendar.

In the years to come, the All England Club hopes to expand its facilities and host qualifying events for the Championships on its newly acquired tournament grounds while increasing its spectator capacity to allow more patrons to watch The Championships.