Wimbledon under threat: key decision to be made next week
All England Club will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the Championships
Like dominoes the world’s most cherished sporting events have fallen in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and next to go could be this summer’s Wimbledon tennis grand slam.
The 2020 Championships is scheduled to start on 29 June but the All England Club will convene an emergency meeting next week and discuss whether to take the unprecedented decision to cancel this year’s event.
Wimbledon is the world’s oldest tennis tournament, having first been staged in 1877, and since then only the two world wars have stopped the sound of ball on racquet in leafy south-west London every summer.
According to The Guardian, there is a “downbeat” mood within the All England Club after Britain went into lockdown at the start of this week.
The professional tennis ATP and WTA tours have been suspended until 7 June and it would appear unrealistic to stage the sport’s showpiece tournament three weeks later with players out of shape following a three-month shutdown.
Additionally, says the Daily Mail, it takes two months to get the site ready for the championships “so realistically a decision needs to be made by the end of April or the start of May at the latest”.
On Wednesday night the All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said that the board are “working hard to bring certainty to our plans”.
It’s believed they are in consultation with representatives from all the main bodies in the sport, as well as the organisers of the other grand slams in Australia, France and the United States.
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Health comes first
The French Open has already been controversially moved from its customary May time slot to September, risking a clash with the popular Laver Cup, and were Wimbledon to be postponed it’s hard to see when it could be rescheduled given that it’s an outdoor tournament played on grass.
All England Club chief Lewis said: “The unprecedented challenge presented by the Covid-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined, and our thoughts are with all those affected in the UK and around the world.
“The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make.
“We are working hard to bring certainty to our plans for 2020 and have convened an emergency meeting of the main board for next week, at which a decision will be made.”
Slim to zero
The Guardian quotes an industry insider who is described as an experienced negotiator between broadcasters and sports tournaments.
The insider said: “With such uncertainty about, changing big, long-term contracts and setting mutually acceptable new dates is difficult and complicated, as can be seen from what has been happening with the Olympics.
“For that reason, I’d say the chances of Wimbledon going ahead in June are slim to zero. You go with it now or you call it off.”
The Daily Mail claims that one decision reached by the All England Club is that the Championships will not be held behind closed doors in order to meet broadcasters’ needs.