Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates victory at Wimbledon. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates victory at Wimbledon. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Wimbledon: We'll cancel rather than shut out fans

By Matt Hughes Time of article published Mar 12, 2020

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LONDON - The All England Club are considering cancelling Wimbledon this year rather than staging the Championships behind closed doors, Sportsmail has learned.

The fate of the tournament will ultimately be decided by the Government, who are co-ordinating sport’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, but it is understood that there is extreme reluctance in SW19 to contemplate holding their iconic event without spectators.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the major sports’ governing bodies and broadcasters at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport earlier on Monday, with Wimbledon’s position believed to differ markedly from other sports such as football and racing, who are determined to keep events on for as long as possible even if it means shutting out fans.

The All England Club were represented at the meeting by Paul Davies, their head of broadcast and production. Wimbledon’s position is understood to be down to the All England Club’s financial strength, their obligations to members, and the Championship’s image. There are only 375 full members and there is a strong feeling among many that without the social aspect the tournament should not go ahead.

The All England Club are also comfortable with the insurance provisions they have in place, unlike the Football Association who, as Sportsmail revealed yesterday, are not covered for loss of profits should matches at Wembley be cancelled by the Government. In contrast, Wimbledon have insurance policies in place that would enable them to refund those who have bought tickets in advance.

A decision is not imminent as there are over three months until the Championships are due to take begin on June 29. The French Open, which starts at the end of May, is under greater threat with the number of coronavirus cases in France passing 1,700 yesterday.

French tennis chief Jean-Francois Vilotte said earlier this week that there are no plans to postpone the Grand Slam, but that they are considering the introduction of masks, hand gels and the cancellation of tickets for holders from affected areas.

There are doubts over whether the Masters events in Miami at the end of this month — where Andy Murray (above) was hoping to make his comeback — and Monte Carlo, in mid-April, will take place as planned.

Daily Mail

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