Not before time the Wimbledon committee are set to reconsider their strict “predominantly white” dress code rule for players and coaches that they have enforced since 1877.

Whilst most players are happy to maintain tradition for the World’s oldest and most prestigious tournament, for female players the extension to  the rule  which  states any undergarments  or bras that either are, or can be visible during play – including due to “perspiration”   must also be completely white  “except for a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre”  is clearly a problem for female players at a certain time of the month.

The decision comes in the wake of recent protests outside the gates of the All England Tennis Club to ‘address the dress code’.

Recently Football clubs have also allowed white shorts and replaced with darker colours.

Women, or as eons of archaic male Wimbledon committee members prefer to say “Ladies” – were only allowed to participate at The Championships from 1884, seven years after “The Gentlemen”

Even then, the Ladies championships were not allowed to commence until the Gentlemen’s singles event had finished.

The original club was founded by six Gentlemen on 23 July 1868 as the All England Croquet Club when Lawn Tennis was in it’s infancy.

Lawn Tennis was introduced in 1875 by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield and one lawn tennis court was set aside for members.

The first Gentlemen’s singles Championship was held in 1877  and the club changed it’s name to The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The first champion Spencer Gore stated “Lawn Tennis will never rank among our great games”

Service was underarm, now a legitimate  tactical ploy often used by Nick Kyrgios.

During World War II, 1939-45 the AELTC was run by a glamorous London Socialite Norah Gordon Cleather *

Norah Gordon Cleather with Harry Hopman in 1946

Besotted by the game and Wimbledon since her first visit as a schoolgirl in 1917, Norah joined the small backroom staff at Wimbledon in 1922, the year the tournament moved from Worple Road to Church Road to accommodate the extraordinary interest generated by Suzanne Lenglen, who became a life-long friend.

As the sport gathered international acclaim, she worked alongside the tournament director, Major Dudley Larcombe, and took over from him as “acting secretary” on the eve of the second world war when he retired due to ill health. It was a journey that seemed to fulfill all of Norah’s young dreams.

Bombs fell and Wimbledon closed.

Her great-niece Sarah Cleather – whose stage name is Sarah Tullamore – says: “Norah ran Wimbledon during the war almost single-handedly as the men were drafted off.

She ended up living there as well, alongside the troops, as her flat in Earl’s Court was bombed out. She fully expected to continue after the war and why not?”

“As things picked up again,” Tullamore says, “[she was] informed that a male manager would be coming to work with her to run things. She must have been disappointed, but she did accept this.

However, when she found out the man in question would be paid more than her for the same job, she, quite naturally, objected and asked for the same salary – especially as she had been doing the job for 25 years and had just organised the first post-war tournament on her own.

“Sadly – and this is a sign of the times she lived in – the powers that be at Wimbledon rather brutally refused to budge. So Norah, with a heavy heart, decided to leave – which was a real pioneering thing to do at the time.

So it was only in August 2020 that AELTC  fully recognised  the need to fully embrace the fact that women, sorry, “Ladies”  had an active part to play in Tennis administration when they appointed Sally Bolton OBE as it’s first female Chief Executive Officer.

Little surprise therefore  that it has taken Wimbledon 145 years to make allowance for the personal hygiene needs of the fairer sex

Main photo:- Sally Bolton became Wimbledon’s first female CEO in August 2020 – ©AELTC

  • “Wimbledon Story”  by Norah Gordon Cleather,  comments courtesy Sarah Tullamore