For over a century, the Slazenger tennis balls used at Wimbledon made the short journey from the company’s Barnsley factory to centre court. Today, a new analysis has revealed, the official balls travel over 50,000 miles around the world before finally arriving from the Philippines factory in which they are now made.
“It is one of the longest journeys I have seen for a product,” said Mark Johnson, an operations management expert at Warwick Business School, who conducted the analysis. “On the face of it, travelling more than 50,000 miles to make a tennis ball does seem fairly ludicrous, but it just shows the global nature of production these days, and in the end, this will be the most cost-effective way of making tennis balls.”
Johnson’s research shows materials for the Slazenger balls fly between 11 countries and across four continents before being manufactured in Bataan in the Philippines and then travelling the final 6,660 miles to SW19. He found that the complex supply chain sees clay shipped from South Carolina in the US, silica from Greece, magnesium carbonate from Japan, zinc oxide from Thailand, sulphur from South Korea and rubber from Malaysia to Bataan. Wool is then shipped from New Zealand to Stroud in Gloucestershire, where it is weaved into felt and then flown back to Bataan.