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LTA sets aside money in case of washouts

LONDON -- Organizers of Wimbledon have
salted away $3.87 million to cover rain
disruptions after the cost of insuring themselves against the
British weather became too steep, it was revealed on Wednesday.

A Championships Ticket Refunds Reserve has been set up by
the Lawn Tennis Association -- the governing body of
British tennis and joint organizers of the grasscourt Grand Slam
-- members were told at their Annual General Meeting.

The reserve will be used to refund spectators who see less
than an hour's play due to poor weather at the All England Club.

"It is no longer an economic proposition to take out an
insurance policy against rain delays," the LTA's treasurer Derek
Howorth told members at London's historic Queen's Club.

"The committee ... has therefore decided to self-insure this
risk. As this is a risk to the surplus (amount of cash the LTA
receives as proceeds from the tournament) in individual years,
it is effectively an LTA risk and we decided to set up this
specific reserve."

Wimbledon is a major money maker for the governing body of
British tennis -- in 2004, the LTA received $51.87 million from the tournament.

However, organizers took a major hit in the pocket at this
year's event as two days were washed out.

Organisers were not covered by insurance for this payout,
the LTA said, as they had stopped insuring against the weather
two years ago.

"In the past we had taken out insurance against the cost of
rain cancellations," LTA president Charles Trippe told
reporters.

"But the premiums for this had been steadily rising ... and
the excess had gone up to a very high level. The real killer was
that insurers did lose out on a couple of years.

"So, we've decided not to insure."

Trippe said it was impossible to estimate what the average
cost of covering for rain at the event would be.

"It could be nothing, it could be two million pounds," he
said.

Wimbledon revamped its ticket refund policy in 2001. Fans
can claim a full refund of the ticket's face value if there is
less than one hour's play because of rain on the court for which
tickets have been bought.

Ticket holders are also eligible for a half refund if there
is more than one hour's play, but less than two hours' play.

In January the All England Club announced it was to build a
retractable roof over Centre Court.

After years of rejecting the idea, the club's management
committee finally agreed it was necessary to shield the most
famous venue in tennis from London's rain to satisfy the demands
of television.

Construction on Centre Court is expected to begin in 2006
and a translucent roof should be in place for the 2009
championships.