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"Bring your own shoes to Wimbledon"

12 July 2013

"Bring your own shoes to Wimbledon"

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I can’t really claim to be an avid tennis fan, but Wimbledon is always an exception.  And as with other great sporting events, it’s one of the ‘must-see’ competitions for millions of people who, like me, want to watch the epitome of a particular sport.  

The Derby, The British Grand Prix, The FA Cup, The Ashes, The Superbowl and The Tour de France are all great sporting contests but they involve so much more than just epic matches and just like we in progressive businesses are constantly improving our IT to give customers better information about our service, the computers in sport give out the fastest time, the highest score and a plethora of other impressive statistics.  

During the recent matches, before Andy’s historic win, I began to think about the logistics of running the actual tournament itself.  Like most business owners, interested in processes, brand image, service delivery and results, this made me wonder: How is it organised? Who makes the arrangements?  How many people work behind the scenes?  The Internet soon answered these questions – apparently, it all began in June 1877 with an announcement in The Field magazine that "The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose to hold a lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs, on Monday July 9th and following days".  Apparently just 22 men paid the £1.1s entrance fee (that’s £1, 1 shilling or £1.05 for our younger readers!), having been advised to bring their own rackets and “shoes without heels”, but that balls would be provided by the club gardener!  

Since then, Wimbledon has grown and evolved into a world class sporting event and is, in fact, the largest annual catering operation in European sport with around 1,800 staff serving 28,000kg of strawberries with 7000 litres of cream, 300,000 cups of tea and coffee and 250.000 bottles of water during the two week tournament. To keep the grass in good condition, the ground staff re-line, roll and mow every court, every day, and might use up to 3,000 gallons of water if the sun shines during those two weeks in June, and whilst the Grand Slam Committee is responsible for managing the event, there are 335 officials working as chair umpires, line umpires and off-court staff supported by enthusiastic ball-boys and ball-girls from local schools.  

Watching the finals, I realised that while Wimbledon is synonymous with the best tennis in the world, it is also a great business operation - well managed, well organised and with-engaged people working together as a highly efficient team – and something we can all learn from.  At least, from the comfort of my sofa, I didn’t have to queue up for a cup of tea!