COVID-19 claims Wimbledon Championships

The Wimbledon tennis grand slam has today (Wednesday) been cancelled for the first time since World War Two after organisers conceded that the challenges presented by COVID-19 were insurmountable.

This year’s edition of the UK sporting showpiece was due to take place from June 29 to July 12, but following meetings held today between the main board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of the Championships it has been decided that the 134th edition of Wimbledon will instead be staged from June 28 to July 11, 2021.

Since the emergence of the COVID-19 outbreak in January, AELTC said it has followed guidance from the UK government and public health authorities in relation to its year-round operations, alongside developing an understanding of the likely trajectory of the outbreak in the UK. This 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 June 29, or at a later date in the summer of 2020.

With the likelihood that the government’s measures will continue for many months, AELTC said it “must act responsibly” to protect the large numbers of people required to prepare the Championships from being at risk, and equally to consider that the people, supplies and services legally required to stage the event would not be available at any point this summer, thus ruling out postponement.

Cancellation has been deemed the best decision in the interests of public health. Organiser said that fans 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 next year’s tournament.

Ian Hewitt, AELTC chairman, said: “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.”

Wimbledon is the first tennis major to be cancelled due to COVID-19. Organisers of this year’s French Open last month said the modernisation of the Roland Garros site – which includes the installation of a roof on the main Court Philippe Chatrier – enabled its event to be rescheduled to the autumn.

The 2020 French Open is now proposed to be held from September 20 to October 4. As of now, the US Open is still due to be played in New York from August 31 to September 13.

Richard Lewis, AELTC chief executive, added: “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.”

In conjunction with the cancellation of Wimbledon, the Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association have jointly announced the continued suspension of the ATP and WTA Tours until July 13.

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. At this time, tournaments taking place from July 13 onwards are still planning to proceed as per the published schedule.

Wimbledon said its efforts will now be focused on contributing to the emergency response and supporting those affected by the coronavirus crisis. It has begun distributing medical equipment and has offered the use of facilities to the NHS and to the London Resilience Partnership, the collection of agencies in London fighting the battle against COVID-19.

Image: Wimbledon