By Ros Satar
- All England Club takes the step to cancel The Championships for the first time since 1945
- Insurance should protect them from the fallout of the suspension of the whole grass court season
LONDON, UK – The Championships at Wimbledon has taken the anticipated step of cancelling this year’s tournament after the Board met on Wednesday.
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The Statement in Full
It is with great regret that the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic. The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021.
Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen – the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents – as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life.
Since the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in January, we have followed guidance from the UK Government and public health authorities in relation to our year-round operations, alongside developing an understanding of the likely trajectory of the outbreak in the UK. This has enabled analysis of the impact of the Government restrictions on the usual commencement in April of the significant preparations required to stage The Championships, either on the original date of 29 June, or at a later date in the summer of 2020.
These considerations are particularly related to the concerns brought about by mass gatherings and the strain on the medical and emergency services, as well as movement and travel restrictions both within the UK and around the world. With the likelihood that the Government’s measures will continue for many months, it is our view that we must act responsibly to protect the large numbers of people required to prepare The Championships from being at risk – from the training of ball boys and girls to thousands of officials, line judges, stewards, players, suppliers, media and contractors who convene on the AELTC Grounds – and equally to consider that the people, supplies and services legally required to stage The Championships would not be available at any point this summer, thus ruling out postponement.
Following a series of detailed deliberations on all of the above, it is the Committee of Management’s view that cancellation of The Championships is the best decision in the interests of public health, and that being able to provide certainty by taking this decision now, rather than in several weeks, is important for everyone involved in tennis and The Championships. Members of the public who paid for tickets in the Wimbledon Public Ballot for this year’s Championships will have their tickets refunded and will be offered the chance to purchase tickets for the same day and court for The Championships 2021. We will be communicating directly with all ticket-holders.
In addition, we have taken account of the impact that this decision will have on those who rely on The Championships – including the players and the tennis community in Britain and around the world – and we are developing plans to support those groups, working in partnership with the LTA and the other leadership bodies in global tennis. This also applies to our loyal staff, to whom we take our responsibility very seriously.
Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman, commented: “This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen. It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond. Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”
Richard Lewis CBE, AELTC Chief Executive, commented: “While in some ways this has been a challenging decision, we strongly believe it is not only in the best interests of society at this time, but also provides certainty to our colleagues in international tennis given the impact on the grass court events in the UK and in Europe and the broader tennis calendar. We have appreciated the support of the LTA, and the ATP, WTA and ITF in coming to this decision, and our friends and partners who stage these grass court events that are so important in the build up to Wimbledon. I would like to thank the UK Government and public health authorities for their guidance and support, and we will do whatever we can to assist their efforts in tackling the crisis.
“Finally, I would like to thank all those who love Wimbledon for their understanding of these unique and unquestionably challenging circumstances. It is your passion for The Championships that has shaped our event over the years, and will continue to do so, and we look forward to preparing a fantastic Championships for 2021.”
Our efforts will now be focused on contributing to the emergency response and supporting those affected by the coronavirus crisis. We have begun distributing medical equipment and offered the use of our facilities to the NHS and to the London Resilience Partnership, the collection of agencies in London fighting the battle against COVID-19. We are working with the local authorities in Merton and Wandsworth, particularly on food distribution, and we are distributing food supplies through our partnership with City Harvest.
Our charity, the Wimbledon Foundation, is offering funding support to our local communities through our partnership with the London Community Foundation, and more broadly for the London and UK population through our partnership with the British Red Cross, the Foundation’s emergency response charity.
Given the escalating rates of cases and deaths due to the coronavirus, it was always going to be a push to get the tournament staged with a start date of the end of July, given the fact lock-down could well extend into May and beyond, but the All England Club had the foresight to have insurance for a number of scenarios – a pandemic being one of them.
Roland Garros, however, had no plans and to avoid being part of the clay court season casualties, they decided to jump into a slot straight after the US Open, without consultation with any of the tennis governing bodies – which did not go down well at all.
The impact on the grass court season
Together with the announcement from the AELTC, the LTA together with the ATP and WTA confirmed that the tour would not look to resume until 13 July at the earliest.
The following tournaments are affected:
- ATP 250 Den Bosch
- WTA International Den Bosch
- ATP 250 Stuttgart
- WTA International Nottingham
- ATP 500 Halle
- ATP 500 Queen’s Club
- WTA Premier Berlin
- WTA International Birmingham
- ATP 250 Mallorca
- ATP 250 Eastbourne
- WTA Premier Eastbourne
The LTA Statement reads:
The LTA, in conjunction with the All England Club, the ITF, ATP and WTA, has regrettably announced today the cancellation of its summer Grass Court events and the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships following the latest advice from the UK Government and the suspension of professional tennis due to the escalating coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The LTA summer major events grass court circuit includes the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham (8-14 June), the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club and the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham during the week of 15 June, as well as the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne (21-27 June). This period also covers the ITF/ATP Trophy Series events staged by the LTA in Manchester (8-14 June) and Ilkley (15-21 June), the ITF junior Grade 1 events in Nottingham (22-27 June) and Roehampton (28 June – 3 July) and the ITF Wheelchair events held alongside the Tour events at Birmingham and Queens. The British Open Wheelchair Championships event in Nottingham in July has also been cancelled, although the LTA has reserved the option to re-stage the tournament later in the season.
This news comes alongside today’s announcement regarding the cancellation of the 2020 edition of The Championships, Wimbledon, along with the ATP, WTA and ITF confirming that all professional tennis around the world will remain suspended until 13 July 2020.
For any fans who bought tickets to The Fever-Tree Championships or Nature Valley-sponsored events in Nottingham, Birmingham or Eastbourne, they will have a choice of receiving a face-value refund or rolling their ticket forward to the 2021 event. These details will be sent via email or letter from the ticketing providers. For any ticket buyers to the LTA Trophy Series events at Surbiton, Manchester or Ilkley, the face value of any tickets purchased will automatically be refunded via The Ticket Factory.
Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive said: “Given the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest government advice and our discussions with the ATP, WTA, ITF and AELTC, it is with deep regret that our summer grass court tournaments and the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships have been cancelled for 2020. This is an unprecedented situation and the health of those attending our tournaments as spectators, players, staff, media, sponsors and guests had to be our number one consideration. We at the LTA will be working hard to support our wider tennis community to allow the sport a strong return to health when conditions allow. In the meantime we hope that our tennis fans are staying safe and we look forward to welcoming them back to tennis when we can.”
At the same time the ATP and WTA tours issues a joint statement:
In conjunction with the cancellation of The Championships, Wimbledon, the ATP and WTA have jointly announced the continued suspension of the ATP and WTA Tours until July 13, 2020, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Wimbledon, the suspension covers the entirety of the ATP/WTA European grass court swing, including ATP events in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Stuttgart, London-Queen’s, Halle, Mallorca, Eastbourne, as well as WTA events in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Nottingham, Birmingham, Berlin, Eastbourne and Bad Homburg. The suspension comes into effect at all levels of the professional game, including the ATP Challenger Tour, as well as the ITF World Tennis Tour. At this time, tournaments taking place from July 13, 2020 onwards are still planning to proceed as per the published schedule.
The ATP and WTA realise the importance and responsibility to prioritise the health and safety of the tennis community and general public while assessing the feasibility of the Tours’ resumption.
“This was a decision that the WTA and our members did not take lightly, however we remain vigilant in protecting the health and safety of our players, staff and fans,” said Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO. “While we share in the disappointment of the season’s further postponement, our priority remains to support each other during this unprecedented time and work together as a sport in preparation of our return to play.”
“Regrettably, the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic leaves us with no choice but to suspend the Tour further; a decision we’ve made in close cooperation with our members and the other governing bodies of tennis,” said Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman. “Health and safety remains the top priority as we navigate the challenges ahead in these unprecedented times, and we will do everything we can for the Tour to resume at the earliest opportunity once it is safe to do so.”
Why couldn’t they do a ‘French Open’?
It is all about Unison and not Unilateralism – the AELTC made its decision in conjunction with the WTA and ATP, and the LTA given the impact on the UK grass court season,
To try and find two weeks in the calendar that work for an outdoor tournament on a living surface is challenging. Quite aside from lumping itself on top of existing tournaments, the conditions in this country outside of that time frame get increasingly hard to stage a two-week grass-court tournament without significant disruption.
When we do have a glorious British summer, the weather is great, and play can continue until late into the evening. Then again, we can have rain, and lots of it. Moving later in the year makes that far more likely.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games having been postponed, the tennis part of the tournament was set to take place in the first week, again with a number of tournaments running in that time frame for those that do not make the Olympic Cut. With the Games being postponed because of the continuing effects and risks around COVID-10, it might still have been too soon for The Championships to run.
Where in the world are the players?
Many players have returned home in the wake of the first wave of tournament cancellations, which started with Indian Wells and was swiftly followed by Miami before the tours announced their suspensions.
Flights worldwide are grounded and to get players moving again, with different countries at different stages on their coronavirus timelines adds to the complexity of getting the tours started up again.
When could we see tennis again?
With the grass court season now effectively cancelled, the post-Wimbledon landscape is made up of a few random summer clay court tournaments, one equally random American grass court tournament before the tour moves back onto the hard court for the US Open series and the build up to what is usually the last Slam of the year.
Even then it will assume that travel is reinstated worldwide, and with the US behind the European curve, with their numbers now surpassing the other countries in Europe that were the hardest hit, there could well be more delays to come.
Britwatch will keep updating news about the tennis season.
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