Wimbledon: I’m too old for tennis, Camilla admits in BBC live mic 'ambush’
THE BBC sparked a royal controversy at Wimbledon yesterday, appearing to flout protocol when three pundits ambushed the Duchess of Cornwall with their ensuing chat broadcast live.
Viewers were shocked to hear her admit to John McEnroe, the former Wimbledon champion, that she would love to play tennis again but feared she was “too old.”
The unusual live broadcast of what would normally be a private conversation came as she visited the All England Club on the fourth day of the tournament.
In a scheduled stop-off she met ball boys and girls, members of the Armed Forces and tennis players in an organised line-up.
Lurking in the background were McEnroe, Virginia Wade and Tim Henman, all former players taking part in the BBC’s live coverage.
When the Duchess reached the end of the line she began to walk away, but on realising the trio was waiting for her she returned to speak to them.
Although she had been told beforehand that the BBC was broadcasting live as she walked down the line-up, it is unlikely she realised the three pundits had their microphones on as she chatted with them.
While the conversations she had with the others in the line-up were not audible, the words she exchanged with the pundits were aired live on BBC Two.
McEnroe asked her: “Do you play?” to which she replied: “Oh, very badly. I would love to start again but I’m afraid I’m too old.” McEnroe assured her she was “never too old”. The Duchess also told the American that she and her sister “always used to come every year”.
She said: “It’s nice to be able to catch up again, see all of you, and if we can’t see you, we watch you on the telly.”
The pundits had turned away from the BBC’s Wimbledon presenter, Sue Barker, as the Duchess approached, and an amused Barker asked: “Now what is Mac, Tim and Virginia doing? They have just left me, yes, left me alone.”
As the Duchess began to walk off, she adds “the Duchess of Cornwall tried to get away from them”.
Henman joked afterwards that the three had “just gatecrashed” the line-up. When members of the Royal family meet the public there is normally a strict protocol in place forbidding the reporting or broadcasting of their conversations, and the BBC’s broadcast was met with surprise from viewers.
One, going by the name KernowChris, wrote on Twitter: “Protocol...Mikes (sic) should be off at Wimbledon for these conversations.”
Another, called mikeanthonylee, wrote: “It’s very bizarre. 3 of the BBC commentators have just joined the line up to speak to Camilla – but they’re mic’ed up so we can hear all!”
Clarence House sought to play down the incident, saying it was “not an issue”.
But a spokesman admitted that the presenters were “not part of any formal line-up” and their meeting with the Duchess had been an “impromptu hello”.
The BBC, which declined to comment, has previously been criticised for its royal coverage after mistakenly showing footage that wrongly implied the Queen walked out of a portrait session in a 2007 documentary.
The All England Club has meanwhile been looking into reports that Mo Farah may have broken Wimbledon rules by filming play from the Royal Box.
Spectators are not supposed to have their phones switched on by the side of the court.
The Olympian posted a link on Twitter to footage following a visit to SW19 on Wednesday. He later appeared to have removed it.