What is a Debenture and Why are they so popular at Wimbledon?

Debenture seats are one of the most popular and legitimate means by which paying customers can enjoy exceptional seats and a VIP Hospitality experience at The Championships, hosted every year by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, and better known as Wimbledon.

At DAIMANI we are fortunate to work with a number of experienced debenture seat providers allowing us to provide one of the few ‘click and buy’ debenture ecommerce sales function. All of the details about seat blocks, current pricing and the official hospitality provisions are available here:

As someone who has had to explain Debentures, and the particular peculiarities of Wimbledon Debentures, on countless occasions to slightly bemused overseas customers, we thought it might be a good idea to throw some light on the little-known history and financial background to this popular means of accessing the most famous grasscourt tennis event of them all.

The popularity of the term Debenture as analysed by Google over the past 200 years:

The clue is in the name: the etymology of the word dates back to the mid-15th century when it was used as a ‘written acknowledgment of a debt’. This Anglo-Latin phrase built on the Latin debentur or ‘there are due’ which was said to have been the first word in formal certificates of indebtedness in Medieval Latin which read debentur mihi or ‘there are owing to me’. The first record recent use of debenture as it related to a bond issued by a corporation was in 1837.

In a 1977 article in The Observer journalist Michael Davie provided some history to the Wimbledon debenture:

‘When the club moved to its present site in 1921, it needed money to build the Centre Court. Someone had the bright idea of raising the cash by the issue of debentures. For GBP50 you bought the right to one Centre Court seat for 25 years. The Club sold 2,100 debentures.

‘These debentures expired in 1947, but were extended for a further five years to make up for the lost years of World War Two. In 1952 there was another debenture sale, but this time for five years, and so on, quinquennially.’

According to Wimbledon’s website there are currently 2520 debenture seats on Centre Court and 1000 debenture seats on No.1 Court. As Debentures are actual financial instruments they come under the regulation of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and are only issued in accordance with a formal prospectus and application process.

This is the key attraction of Debentures [quoting directly from the Wimbledon site]:

‘Tickets with the word ‘Debenture’ printed on them in place of the price may be legally transferred or sold on. Tickets allocated to Debenture Holders are the only Championships tickets that are freely transferable and can be sold on the open market.’

The last Centre Court debenture issue took place in 2019, covering the 2021 to 2025 tournaments, and all debentures were allotted.  No.1 Court debentures, for the 2022-2026 series, should be released after the conclusion of this year’s Championships.

Once all debentures in a particular issue have been sold, those debentures become freely transferable and can be bought and sold via a stockbroker or privately at any point during the five-year term.  Dowgate Capital Limited operate a weekly auction of debentures placed with them for sale.

The nature of Debentures – Wimbledon selling a percentage of their best seats to raise funds for capital improvements by engaging with third parties who have an expectation of financial return – has always given this particular aspect of the AELTC’s work plenty of scope for misunderstanding. In this January 1989 letter to the Guardian editor, the-then chairman of the AELTC laid out in clear terms how the monies raised from that particular issue of Debentures helped ensure the tournament kept reinvesting without affecting its commitment to support the Lawn Tennis Association.

Wimbledon’s website has information about the three most recent transactions, and the prices and dates of the market value, for the 2021-2025 Centre Court Debenture Series.

While the price at issue was £80,000 per debenture, debentures were on-sold for £138,000 (on 16/02/21),  £130,000 (15/02/21) and £128,500 (10/02/21).

Moneywise’s deputy editor Edmund Greaves speaks to Talkradio’s James Max about Wimbledon Debentures, the ins and outs of courtside seats and whether you can net a profit from selling seats [audio only].
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Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
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