‘Terrible’ weather blamed for low Wimbledon crowds as UK set for downpours

The boss of Wimbledon has blamed the “terrible” weather for low attendances at the Championships, as the UK is set to be battered by further downpours.

Yellow weather warnings for rain have been issued by the Met Office across parts of southern England and south Wales on Monday night, and in northern Scotland on Tuesday night.

Wimbledon organisers said they are confident the tournament will finish on time despite the wet forecast and delays to play at the weekend due to heavy rain.

Greater London, where the tournament is held, has so far been drenched by over half of its average monthly rainfall in just one week, according to  Met Office data.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, chief executive of the All England Club, Sally Bolton, said: “The weather has been so terrible that perseverance in the queue has been even greater this year than it ordinarily is.”

“We’re never about maximising our attendances, we’re all about protecting the queue and making sure that we have still got that accessibility, accepting that as a result of that was some variability on the numbers that we will end up achieving.

“Every year when we get back to the end of the championships we look back and try and analyse the data to understand what might drive that. But this year the weather has been so variable and so bad at times, that at the moment our assessment is it’s almost certainly the weather that’s impacting it.”

According to Met Office data, several areas in the south east of England, including Hertfordshire, Essex and Buckinghamshire, have already seen 80% or more of the average expected rainfall for July within the first week of the month.

The soggy start to summer follows the UK’s wettest spring since 1986 and the sixth wettest on record.

The recent damp weather has been paired with chilly conditions.

The Met Office recorded the average temperature for the first week of July as 12.9C – some 2.4C below the month’s long-term average.

June also ended with an average temperature of below 13C, despite a mini-heatwave in parts of the country towards the end of the month.

These cool conditions have largely been caused by the jet stream – the high velocity wind in the atmosphere which causes changes in pressure, according to the Met Office.

Spectators shelter from the rain on day seven of the 2024 Wimbledon in London
Almost half of the monthly average rainfall has fallen in the first week of July in Greater London (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Deputy chief meteorologist David Hayter said: “In recent weeks, the jet stream has been either directed towards the UK, or shifted further south, which has predominantly brought cooler air over the UK, with frequent incursions of some unseasonable winds and rain.

“For warm weather in the UK in summer, you’d tend to see the jet stream shifted further north, which allows the possibility of warmer air to drift over the UK from the south, though this isn’t always the case.

“Unfortunately for those who like the warmth, we have only had brief periods where this pattern has been present in summer so far.”

The chilly and damp start to summer may be unwelcome news for the UK’s tourism industry and those hoping to enjoy brighter weather during the upcoming school holidays.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, which has the National Trust, English Heritage and zoos among its members, said “unseasonably wet and cold weather” during summer is a challenge for the tourism sector but certain attractions continue to be successful regardless of the forecast.

He said: “Indoor attractions tend to do well in wet weather, and that appears to be the case this summer, and although seaside destination numbers are down for sunbathing visitors, there’s still lots to do in gardens, parks, zoos, museums, galleries, and historic and heritage sites.

“Memberships – especially family memberships – of visitor attractions are at the same level as pre-pandemic so families are still prioritising using their memberships and visiting favourite places regardless of the weather.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said despite the “typically temperamental British summer weather”, pubs are enjoying a “bumper summer” thanks to sporting events including the Euro 2024 football tournament.

She said: “At the beginning of the Euros, we predicted that an average performance from our teams, could see as many as 777 million pints sold, generating turnover of £2.2 billion for the UK economy.

“With England now just one game away from the final, we expect that figure to now be even higher.”

For those hoping for warmer weather, the current long-range forecasts do not offer much reassurance.

Mr Hayter said: “While there’s much uncertainty in the forecast at this range, there are some subtle signs of a more settled spell possibly developing, at least for a time, in the second half of July.

“It’s far too early to give any details on how this could develop, so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest forecast.

“There also remains an ongoing chance of unsettled periods of weather and much will depend on the dominant conditions day-to-day as the forecast takes shape.”

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