Meet the Yorkshireman who takes charge of the Wimbledon Championships

Philip Brook in the Royal Box with the Duchess of Cambridge
Philip Brook in the Royal Box with the Duchess of Cambridge
0
Have your say

Wimbledon is often viewed as a bastion of Home Counties traditions - but for the past nine years, the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club has been a Yorkshireman.

Philip Brook, who recently announced that he will step down from the unpaid role at the end of this year, has been a pivotal figure in the continual development of the world's most prestigious tennis tournament.

Down-to-earth Brook grew up in Wakefield and attended the city's Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys before winning a place to study mathematics at Cambridge University. In 1978, he was Yorkshire men's singles champion and he represented the county in competitions until 1990, despite now living in Surrey. He first became involved with Wimbledon as a student when he helped to operate the scoreboards during his summer holidays, and was elected as a member of the All England Club in 1989. In 1997, he joined the committee, and after serving as vice-chairman, was offered the most prominent position of all in 2010.

You can now go on tours of the 'hidden' gardens at Wentworth Woodhouse
As chairman, Brook is expected to act as an ambassador for the event and the club - he is often seen in the Royal Box entertaining VIP guests such as the Duchess of Cambridge.

But he has also worked tirelessly to transform and improve the Championships and develop a blueprint for their future.

During his tenure, one of his greatest achievements has been to change the date of the tournament, moving it back in the tennis calendar to allow for a longer break between the clay and grass court Grand Slams. Previously, many top players avoided playing warm-up grass events after the French Open and headed straight to Wimbledon.

Now, more grass tournaments have been added to the schedule and others have been upgraded, particularly those held around Britain in the run-up to Wimbledon. They now attract more players and stronger fields, and offer more prize money. Brook has spoken about how he had feared that the short grass season meant the surface was at risk of becoming irrelevant and even redundant before the radical overhaul was confirmed.

Saltaire: How an industrial village became one of Yorkshire's most desirable place to live
He's also steered through the contentious purchase of the 73-acre golf club adjacent to the Wimbledon grounds - there was a protracted wrangle involving the golfers, who were divided on whether to end their lease on the site early and accept the All England Club's lucrative offer. Brook hopes that in future the qualifying competitions will be brought in-house - they're currently held in Roehampton - and that further facilities could be built on the expanded site. He's also raised the intriguing possibility of creating a new access route to the grounds from the Underground station at Wimbledon Park, which at the moment is a less convenient transit point than Southfields Station.

He's presided over the construction of a new roof for Number One Court, allowing play to continue well past dusk - it's been hailed as a resounding success - and he's mulling over the possibility of commissioning a statue of two-times winner Sir Andy Murray, the only British singles champion since the 1970s.

Prize money for players who exit in the first round has risen from £11,000 to £45,000 during his time as chairman - enough to fund a season's competing for some of the lower-ranked players who only narrowly sneak into the draw. Many professionals had complained of the difficulty in breaking even on the tour as they tried to enter the top 100.

The Gentleman Jack effect sees visitors descend on Shibden Hall in Halifax
Brook has performed his duties alongside his successful business career - and he says he is 'open to offers' of employment as his time in the chair draws to a close.