A Wimbledon Debenture is a financial instrument (debt security) issued by The All England Lawn Tennis Ground plc “The Company”. The Company is wholly owned by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Limited, “AELTC”.
The principal activity of the Company is the ownership and development of the grounds and buildings on Church Road, Wimbledon, London SW19. These facilities are made available for playing lawn tennis and croquet, and for the staging the Wimbledon Championships in return for a facility fee.
When were the first Wimbledon Debentures issued?
The first Wimbledon Championships were played in 1877. By 1919, when The Championships resumed after the First World War, their popularity was such that they had outgrown their facilities.
In 1920, the AELTC issued its first Debentures and raised £100,000 to help purchase the land and fund the construction of a new stadium at the Club’s Southwest London home in Church Road. 2,000 tennis fans each paid a nominal sum of £50 for the first Wimbledon Debentures which had a 25 year maturity and paid either in cash or in kind -a 7.5% coupon or free seats.
2020 marked the centenary of the first Wimbledon Debenture. The first Wimbledon Debenture issue for No 1 Court was issued in 1997. 2,520 Debentures for Centre Court and 1,000 Debentures for No 1 Court are in issue.
What does the AELTC use Debenture funds for?
Since then the AELTC has continued to issue Debentures to raise funds for projects around the Grounds to continually improve the playing and visitor experience and maintain Wimbledon’s position as a world-class sporting event. Large-scale improvements have included:
- Retractable roofs on Centre Court and No. 1 Courts
- The Wimbledon Museum
- The acquisition of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club
In April 2013 the AELTC published its Wimbledon Master Plan which sets out the vision for the future and is a framework against which new development will be assessed and refined. This plan will drive the requirement for future Debenture issues.
By issuing Debentures via the Company, the AELTC is able to ring fence funds for the continuing development, improvement, and refurbishment works of the facilities at the Grounds. With this structure the AELTC can ensure that the surplus made from The Championships goes to the Lawn Tennis Association “LTA” to support British tennis. In December 2008, the Club and the LTA agreed that the LTA would benefit from receiving 90 per cent of any distributable financial surplus resulting from The Championships until at least 2053.
How do Wimbledon Debentures function?
Each Wimbledon Debenture is issued as a series of 5-year debentures. The Debenture is structured to fall within the definition of a qualifying corporate bond (QCB). QCB’s are subject to specific tax treatment and may be attractive to UK resident individual holders from a Capital Gains Tax perspective. The UK tax treatment applicable to a sale of Wimbledon Debentures is different to that applicable for the sale of individual Wimbledon Debenture tickets.
The Debenture is essentially a commercial loan made by the Debenture Holder to the Company structured as a nominal amount and a non-repayable premium to which VAT is added. The premiums for Centre Court and No 1 Court are £2,000 and £1,000 respectively.
The Debentures are unsecured, do not carry interest or income and are redeemable at par at the end of the fifth year. The Debentures are not admitted to trading on any regulated market and are illiquid. Dowgate Capital, the official broker of the AELTC runs a fully-tradable weekly secondary market in Wimbledon Debentures.
Who can own a Wimbledon Debenture?
Wimbledon Debentures are registered and held in certificated form. Up to 4 different parties can jointly own a single Debenture.
Due to certain territories’ regulations, the sale of Wimbledon Debentures on issue is restricted in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa. Payment for Wimbledon Debentures is structured as installments.
Can you buy and sell Debentures?
Yes. Wimbledon Debentures are freely transferable and can be bought and sold privately via a stockbroker or privately. Wimbledon Debenture tickets for single days of The Championships or the entire Championships are also freely transferable. Debenture tickets are the only tickets for The Championship that are freely transferable.
In December, prior to each Championship, the AELTC publish a price list for both Centre Court and No. 1 Court Debenture Holders. The AELTC buy any spare Debenture tickets and offer any extra tickets required by Debenture holders.
What are the benefits of owning a Wimbledon Debenture?
Instead of interest and the repayment of the original loan, the Company give Wimbledon Debenture holders the following “Championship Privileges” for each Debenture held:
- A prime seat for each day of The Championships for each year of the Debenture series. For No 1 Court this totals 50 seats (10 seats per Championship). For Centre Court this totals 65 seats (13 seats per Championship). The semi-finals and finals are usually held on Centre Court. On Centre Court Debenture seats are approximately at the same level as the Royal Box.
- Access to exclusive Debenture restaurants and lounges. There are separate lounges, bars and restaurants for Centre Court Debenture Holders and No 1 Court Debenture Holders.
- Access to debenture holder’s car park facilities.
- Existing owners have priority whenever new debentures are offered. As Debenture issues are usually oversubscribed, it is difficult for non-debenture holders to obtain Debentures in the primary market.
In May of each year, the AELTC sends Debenture Holders on the register a book of paper tickets for the forthcoming Championship. The book of tickets provides one seat on Centre Court for all 13 days of The Championships for Centre Court Debenture Holders and one seat on No. 1 Court for the first 10 days of The Championships for No.1 Court Debenture Holders. Each year the AELTC allocates the same seat for the entire Championships to each Debenture Holder, but this seat will change each Championship year in an attempt to achieve a fair allocation of seats.
Debenture tickets do not have a name or face value on them, and some end up being traded multiple times before the day of play.