Tennis superfans who spend the night at the Wimbledon entry camp say making the famous queue partly virtual next year is a “disastrous idea”.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has said it is considering a partially digital queue for daytime award tickets after a notable drop in attendance this year.
Officials told the Daily Telegraph that potential changes could include allowing fans to leave the queue after they’ve scanned it and then being alerted when they can enter, and tickets could also become available online.
The physical queue is expected to persist in some form, but most likely with reduced capacity.
Veteran fans who lined up Sunday morning spoke out against the idea of a virtual queue in any form, saying it takes away from the atmosphere and makes it easy for people to get tickets so they can drop them later.
Siblings Samantha Watson, 34, and Jo Watson, 30, who have joined the lineup since 2008, said the experience is what makes Wimbledon uniquely British and different from other sporting events and even other Grand Slam tournaments.
Mr Watson, an engineer at Saffron Walden in Essex, told the PA news agency: “I love camping. This is what we come here for.”
Asked if he would support giving people an online option alongside a physical queue, he said: “The thing is, if you come and camp, you almost want to be rewarded for camping loyalty and actually being here.
“Many people from all over the world come here because they want to experience the real English queuing system and there is a lot of value in that.
“It’s the only sport where you can camp for front row tickets and not by fluke or contacts like in football.
“It’s good that the common man got an opportunity at the front.”
Ms Watson, an insurance consultant from Fulham, west London, said: “It’s a pretty big cultural thing – we see a lot of people here every year, we’ve been doing this for 10 years now and we’ve made lifelong friends.
“In the queue, the first 500 people get the Center Court, while if it is virtual, they may simply not show up that day.
“You’ll never know where you are in line again if you can’t see how many people are ahead.”
The duo paid £145 each for Center Court tickets.
Ursula, 58, who traveled from Vienna to line up, said she would lack experience if more people chose to line up virtually rather than in person.
A school teacher told PA: “We go for the atmosphere, that’s part of the game.
“If they stop it, we will be sorry, we will be sad.
“It’s a great chance for us to get a ticket and watch the players so close to the court, so I hope it’s not just online.”
Emily, 42, a doctor from Cambridge, said: “There is a certain feeling that you have earned your place in line for the match on Center Court to watch the greatest players of all time.
“The virtual platform will take all that experience out of the equation.”
Dania Erasmus, 47, a South African physiotherapist manager who lives in Wimbledon, southwest London, was on a camping trip with boyfriend Jeff Smith, 51, an Oxfordshire dog breeder.
Every year, Ms Erasmus hosts an unofficial public tennis tournament on the fields, where there are queues that she says attract hundreds of spectators.
Tennis enthusiasts use white tape to mark the court and play around seven o’clock on mid-Sunday, which is traditionally the break for professional matches at Wimbledon.
Mr Smith’s friend even 3D printed a gold replica of the Wimbledon men’s singles trophy for the winner with a pineapple on top.
Of the idea of a virtual queue, he said, “I would say that would be a disastrous idea because this is a community, this is a tennis community.
“We all love it, we enjoy camping as much as watching tennis.
“This is a chance for tennis-loving people from all over the world to meet each other.”
Asked if the digital system could expand access for people with disabilities, he said they already have priority access, which is “really good.”
Ms Erasmus said of the queue: “It’s a nice community, for me it’s the highlight of the year to take a vacation and it’s nice to share.”