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First week Wimbledon attendance heading for nine-year low

Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 2/7/16 General view of a cover over court 2 as rain delays play REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 2/7/16 General view of a cover over court 2 as rain delays play REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

LONDON (Reuters) - Wet weather is being blamed for Wimbledon's lowest cumulative attendance for the first week since 2007 -- with numbers of fans set to drop by around 15,000 compared to last year's opening six days.

After five rain-hit days 14,483 fewer fans had walked through the gates than the equivalent period last year.

Before Saturday's action, when the gates were expected to close as fans flocked to catch a bumper programme, the combined attendance stood at 195,875 compared to 210,358 last year.

Attendances were down on four of the first five days with crowds falling below capacity on two consecutive days for the first time since the soggy 2004 championships.

"The weather has been the main factor," an All England Club spokesman said. "Although it is important to stress that on three of the first five days we shut the gates."

With the second round not even complete by Saturday, organisers have decided to schedule matches on middle Sunday, traditionally a rest day, for only the fourth time.

Members of the public have a rare chance to buy showcourt tickets, usually sold many months in advance, online.

Organisers said 22,000 tickets would go on sale from 1400GMT.

"This has been a difficult decision but as with other Middle Sundays I am sure there will be a great atmosphere," Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club, said.

Wimbledon's daily capacity is 39,000 and on Tuesday and Wednesday the attendance figure was less than that, meaning some people with tickets did not show up.

More than 39,000 attended on each of the other three days -- courtesy of Wimbledon's ticket re-sale policy which allows fans to buy tickets from those leaving early.

Organisers offered full ticket refunds to Court One ticket holders on Wednesday after less than two hours play.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

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