Wimbledon Staff – Life Behind the Scenes
BBC Sport has just released a series of interviews with staff members who work behind the scenes at Wimbledon, and the quirks of their roles at the world-famous tennis tournament. As a recruitment agency that finds jobs all over the world for hospitality staff, we wanted to share a behind the scenes view of one of the events a number of our candidates have worked.
The gardener and the secret strawberries
Spare a thought for those gardeners when you stop to take a selfie outside the ivy-clad Centre Court – they have to climb 64 feet to keep the ultimate in high-maintenance greenery under control as it grows six to eight inches a week. Asked whether he ever cursed the person who first planted the trademark ivy that covers the building, Falconer is diplomatic: “That’s been on that building since the day it was built in 1922. We live with it, it’s one of the things people like to see. We deal with it.”
There are plenty of spares among the 19,000 plants that are brought in for the Championships and tended to by a workforce of seven full-time gardeners, with another 10 drafted in from April to September. Once the Championships are over, many of the plants used to decorate the grounds during the tournament are sold to staff and the proceeds go to the Wimbledon Foundation, the club’s charity
His brief is to keep the grounds looking like an English country garden – which sounds straightforward but there are always little hiccups like when the local nursery you always use stops growing the “right” shade of Wimbledon purple petunias for your hanging baskets. As well as the flowers, the onsite gardeners also grow strawberries in the living wall. Falconer says he was amazed that no-one pinched one, “I was coming in in the morning bringing a cup and picking a couple because they were ripe, so I was getting a good breakfast,” he joked.
If the gardener life sounds like your cup of tea, click here to see what gardener roles we have available right now.
The chef and the honey
Onsite at Wimbledon there are chefs who cook for the players and customers. There’s no set menu at Wimbledon, if a player wants pasta with honey, then that is exactly what they get. That is the strangest request executive chef Gary Parsons (right) says he has had – and he is not allowed to reveal who ordered it.
But most players are more conventional, with most of them opting for the pick-and-mix-style pasta option where they tell one of the chefs what they would like, and it is cooked in front of them. “It’s pasta pre-match and then normally rice, sushi, stir fry (after a match). We have sushi chefs on site, it’s freshly made on site for the players… and for me!” Parsons has a team of 15 full-time members of staff which grows to 427 during the Championships. All the produce comes from the UK and there are two player restaurants at Wimbledon, serving up 900 player meals a day in the first week. And do the players ever have pudding? “Strawberries,” says Parsons.
If you fancy the chef life, click here to see all our available chef roles within private households.
The linesman and the CV
What have dentists, doctors, plumbers and lawyers got to do with Wimbledon matches? They are the day jobs of those smartly dressed men and women staring intently down the white lines, watching the ball and making crucial calls. “Near enough everybody has a second job that pays the bills,” explains line judge David Bayliss, who will be working at his 20th Wimbledon this year and also works in computer security. Do they ever have any lapses in concentration? “Of course it happens, we are human like everybody else,” Bayliss says.
While there is not much money in being a line judge, there are other benefits. “To put it on your CV that you’ve been a line judge at Wimbledon… when I’ve been for job interviews, people sort of talk about computer security for a few minutes and then want to know about Wimbledon,” Bayliss says.
The ball boys and girls and the sweaty towels
Staying calm when hit by a ball coming at more than 120mph, handling sweaty towels and catering to players’ on-court quirks are all part of the job of the 250 ball boys and girls. The ball boys and girls are selected from 32 local schools, and around only one in three applicants are successful. They work in teams with each person always working in a specific position on the court with the taller ones behind the baselines and the shorter ones near the net.
Before they go on court, they mug up on whether the players like towels handed to them folded or scrunched up, how they like their water bottles lined up or from which corner they like their balls to come. Their friends are jealous of the uniform and their two weeks off school, while their parents try to spot them on the TV, but surely no-one envies them the towel duties? “It’s just part of the job, you don’t have to hold it for too long,” said Harry, 14, who is a ball boy for the second year. “It’s probably not the nicest, you just try to get rid of it as quickly as possible and put it on the chair.”
If you’re interested in working in the hospitality, we have a whole range of positions available all over the UK and further afield too, click here to see all our vacancies.