Wimbledon set to be cancelled due to coronavirus
The Wimbledon tennis tournament is set to be cancelled this year, with the centrepiece of Britain’s sporting summer becoming the latest big event to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, the 152-year-old institution that organises the Championships, will hold an emergency board meeting on Wednesday, with the annual competition likely to be called off for the first time since the second world war, according to people with knowledge of discussions at the club.
Over recent weeks, Wimbledon executives have held crisis talks with tennis governing bodies around the world. There was hope that the peak of the outbreak would have passed in the UK by the tournament’s June 29 start date, allowing one of the world’s four “Grand Slam” tennis competitions to go ahead.
But growing doubt over when the UK’s lockdown restrictions will ease, uncertainty over whether players will be able to travel from all over the world, and the limited time left to prepare the south-west London grounds have led to growing pessimism over whether the event can be held.
The AELTC said last week there was a “very short window” available to stage the Wimbledon Championships, as the nature of grass courts meant they could only be played on in the high summer. Even a short postponement would leave Wimbledon colliding with other global tennis events.
Richard Lewis, chief executive of the AELTC, has ruled out holding the Championships without spectators, with thousands of staff and officials still required to be at its grounds to administer the event. “The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make,” he said.
Earlier this week, Dirk Hordorff, vice-president of the German Tennis Federation and an important voice in global tennis, told local broadcasters: “The necessary decisions have already been made there and Wimbledon will decide to cancel . . . There is no doubt about it. This is necessary in the current situation.”
The pandemic has led to the postponement or cancellation of sporting fixtures across the world, from games in North America’s National Basketball Association, to football leagues across Europe and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
In the UK, Premier League football fixtures are suspended until May at the earliest, while Six Nations rugby matches have been postponed.
Some important sports events remain on the calendar, such as the British Formula One Grand Prix and The Open golf championships, both due to be held in July. Sports industry executives said government pronouncements that social distancing measures were likely to be in place for many months meant those events were also likely to be postponed or cancelled within weeks.
In recent days, Wimbledon officials have analysed their insurance policies and believe they will be able to recoup the vast majority of financial losses from a cancellation, helping to ensure the club will be able to afford to stage future tournaments and continue to provide funding to the Lawn Tennis Association, the UK’s governing body for the sport.
The AELTC is also expected to refund ticket and debenture holders, and will not be able to satisfy its lucrative broadcasting and sponsorship contracts this year. In the 12 months to July 31 2018, the latest period for which financial information is available, the AELTC made £254.9m in revenues and a pre-tax profit of £4.4m.