LONDON: The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced Wednesday that Wimbledon - tennis' most hallowed Grand Slam - has been cancelled for the first time since World War Two because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament was due to be played between 29 June and 12 July.
The entire grass-court season has already been abandoned, and there will be no professional tennis anywhere in the world until at least 13 July, BBC reports.
Wimbledon is the latest major summer sporting event to be called off, with Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics postponed for 12 months.
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.