What is a Wimbledon Debenture?
By Ed C
Updated 4th February 2021
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 Tennis Championships in return for a facility fee.
Read more: What is the AELTC?
The history of Wimbledon Debentures
The first Wimbledon Championships were played in 1877. By 1919 The Championships were so popular that the Club's facilities were no longer adequate.
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. Debentures were purchased for cash. Debenture holders could then choose between a 7.5% annual return or an allocation of seats at the Tournament.
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 are Debenture funds used for?
The AELTC continues to issue Debentures to raise funds for projects around the Grounds, to continually improve the player and visitor experience, and to maintain Wimbledon's position as a world-class tennis venue.
Large-scale improvements have included:
- Retractable roofs on Centre Court and No.1 Court
- The Wimbledon Museum
- The acquisition of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club
In April 2013 the AELTC published its ,Wimbledon Master Plan', which sets out a 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 work?
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 Debenture Holders from a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) 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 in instalments.
Can I 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 legally 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 gives 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 Debenture Holders have priority whenever new debentures are offered. As Debenture issues are usually oversubscribed, it is difficult for Wimbledon tennis fans who don't already own a Debenture to obtain a Debenture in the primary market.
When are Debenture Tickets allocated?
Historically, in May of each year, the AELTC has sent Debenture Holders a book of paper tickets for the forthcoming Championship. The book provided 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.
The AELTC has now stopped issuing paper tickets. From 2021, tennis fans attending the Tournament will be issued a mobile e-ticket instead.
Read more: How do Wimbledon e-tickets work?
As from 2022, there will be no rest day (middle Sunday) and play will take place on all 14 days of the Tournament. So as from 2022:
- Centre Court Debenture holders will receive 14 days' of tickets
- No.1 Court Debenture holders will receive 14 days' of tickets
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.
Secure your place at the 2024 Championships now
We currently have Wimbledon Debenture Tickets available to buy for Centre Court and No.1 Court, for every day of the 2024 Championships.
To get the ball rolling:
We had a great time on Saturday
"Just wanted to let you know that we had a great time on Saturday and that it all went smoothly. I didn't realise it was better than making a booking in a restaurant, but even then we were very lucky to get a beautiful table for 6 at the Wingfield restaurant. It was the only one available! Thanks for helping me organise this nice day with the family and let's stay in touch for future years."
Gabriel ButelerMore testimonials