An Andy Murray statue, larger arenas and 80 more acres of grounds: Philip Brook's grand Wimbledon plans as he leaves All England chairman role

Simon Briggs
Philip Brook speaks with the Duchess of Cambridge during week one of Wimbledon 2019 - Getty Images Europe
Philip Brook speaks with the Duchess of Cambridge during week one of Wimbledon 2019 - Getty Images Europe

At a farewell briefing in the All England Club’s boardroom yesterday, outgoing chairman Philip Brook could be found discussing a new statue on the grounds of Wimbledon – although not in honour of himself.

The man who will receive the special treatment – hitherto only offered to Fred Perry – is the two-time champion Andy Murray.

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This might seem appropriate, given Brook offered Murray’s historic 2013 singles victory – the first by a British male for 77 years, lest we forget – as the undoubted highlight of his nine-year term.

“Just to be part of the occasion and the presentation party on that day was very special,” said Brook. A 63-year-old former actuary from Wakefield in Yorkshire, he will pass the baton to 72-year-old former Freshfields lawyer Ian Hewitt in December.

“Our thought all along is that we want to recognise Andy's significant achievements here at Wimbledon,” Brook explained. “We don't want to retire him too early, so we wouldn't unveil it until after he's finished. But it’s something we are doing for him, as we did with Fred Perry and the other busts around the site.”

<span>Andy Murray became the first Brit to win a Wimbledon men's singles title in 77 years in 2013</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Andy Murray became the first Brit to win a Wimbledon men's singles title in 77 years in 2013 Credit: PA

Not wanting to pre-empt a career that could yet have many years left in it, Brook said Murray had not yet been consulted or asked to pose for an artist. He also batted away suggestions Murray’s name could be attached to one of the show courts.

“I think it’s unlikely that we would want to start naming stadia after tennis players. We quite like Centre Court and No 1 Court. We like our traditions and I think that’s probably one tradition we will stick with.”

Brook has certainly maintained the traditional feel of the AELTC. He has an obsession with all-white clothing – even to the point of banning caps that use grey shading under the peak to reduce glare. But he has also been prepared to challenge the status quo within this often chaotic sport.

Perhaps his finest achievement, in view of the difficulty of bringing all seven tennis stakeholders together, is the addition of an extra week to the grass-court season – a move which he brought about through the canny use of Roger Federer’s persuasive powers.

He also cites the construction of the new No 1 Court and the purchase of neighbouring Wimbledon Park Golf Club (or, technically, the early release of that land) as highlights of his tenure.

<span>An aerial view of the All England Lawn Tennis Club</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
An aerial view of the All England Lawn Tennis Club Credit: Getty Images

“We've appointed a form of master-planners to help us think through all of the issues,” said Brook, in relation to the 80-acre acquisition which will treble Wimbledon’s available space. “We think it will take a year, maybe a bit longer

“That’s why this is a good time to leave, because right now that thinking is at an embryonic stage, and it needs the same person [to guide it]. There are some great questions. For instance, Church Road right now is on the edge of the site, but in the new world, it will be right in the middle of the site.

“So do we close Church Road during the Championships? That happened during the Olympic Games, so it's been done before, but for a somewhat smaller event. That's one possibility. Or do we undertake an engineering project to sink the road or bridge across it?

“Do we think our third stadium court [Court 2, which holds only 4,000 spectators] is big enough in today's world? If you look at Melbourne Park or the US Open, they've got a third stadium that is twice the size of ours.

“The District Line is at the far side of the golf course, so should we think about a bigger Wimbledon Park tube station potentially being the arrival point? We could really tell a nice Wimbledon story for people arriving and leaving the grounds. Those are just some examples.”

<span>Brooks has talked of expanding Court 2</span> <span>Credit: CameraSport </span>
Brooks has talked of expanding Court 2 Credit: CameraSport

Wimbledon has recently come under fire from members of the ATP player council, who suggest the players deserve a bigger share of its profits, but first-round prize-money has climbed from £11,000 to £45,000 during Brook’s tenure.

And as the above list of ideas suggests, Wimbledon continues to evolve in the most bold, ambitious and expensive manner.

“Players don’t understand where we’ve come from and they always want more,” said Brook. “Spend more time with Rod Laver or even Tim Henman and they’d learn things were very different not that long ago. We are making a decision to spend money for a roof on No 1 Court rather than put it into the pockets of today’s tennis player and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

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