LONDON (Reuters) – The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELT) CEO said she was proud that her organisation rarely speaks out on pressing issues of the day and added there was no chance whatsoever of a “behind the scenes” documentary on the Wimbledon Championships.
Sally Bolton, who last year became the AELTC’s first female CEO after a career that has also encompassed rugby league, rugby union and athletics, found herself as a panelist at the Leaders Week sport business conference justifying Wimbledon’s famed reluctance to speak about any issue beyond Wimbledon.
“We spend a lot of time not having a view on things,” Bolton told an audience of business leaders at Twickenham Stadium.
“On pretty much any issue we are getting a phone call asking what’s Wimbledon’s position on it. The reality is we don’t have a position on most things because it’s not for us to comment and you have to be very careful.
“We do often talk about issues and consider whether Wimbledon should be more forthright,” she added.
“Wimbledon is still often described as the ‘highly secretive All England Club’. In a way for a reason as we (previously) literally never commented on anything.
“To a large extent people don’t know who the CEO is – and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to be the story.”
Other than its annual announcement of prize money, a routine promise to invest profits in the development of British tennis, the ticket ballot and bright pieces of news about how many strawberries have been sold, Wimbledon is usually tight-lipped.
“The issue you have to be mindful of is when Wimbledon has a view on something it grabs a headline and that’s a precious thing to protect because it means you can influence things,” Bolton said.
“Around environmental sustainability we want to use our voice to influence but we also have to be mindful that people want our voice in lots of debates and we have to pick and choose which ones we want to be in.”
Bolton shared the stage with BBC Director-General Tim Davie, who asked Bolton about the mystery and aura surrounding Wimbledon.
“There is a live debate because when you have an event like The Championships there is a lot of mystique about it,” she said. “If people could see the ugliness of the scramble to put an event on, its not pretty, the mystique … it should look like it should happen by magic.”
Davie’s subsequent suggestion that the Championships could become the next subject for the sort of behind the scenes TV shows that shone a light on the likes of Manchester City and the Australia cricket team was dismissed by Bolton.
Then, after listening to Davie explain that increasing transparency was one of his driving forces at the BBC, Bolton left the stage and declined to speak to reporters at the event.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)