AELTC issues update on plans for this year's Wimbledon

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LONDON: The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC), which owns and operates the Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament, has stated that this summer's championships is likely to go ahead with a reduced crowd capacity.

The tennis world's only grass court Grand Slam is set to start on 28 June, seven days after COVID-19 restrictions are due to end in England, BBC reports.

AELTEC said it would react to changing circumstances which may result in an increase or decrease in numbers allowed in the grounds.

For the record, the overall attendance for the 2019 Wimbledon - the last to be held - was 500,397 over the 13 days.

A statement issued by AELTC reads:  
Further to the publication of the UK Government’s Roadmap out of lockdown, the AELTC Main Board and Committee of Management have met to consider some operational decisions in relation to planning for The Championships 2021.

Our aspiration remains to stage the best Championships possible in the context of the public health situation this summer, with the health and safety of our guests, staff, competitors, and community remaining our highest priority.

We are continuing to work closely with the UK Government, public health authorities and the rest of sport with the ambition of welcoming spectators safely to sports events this summer. Based on these conversations, and taking on board the guidance provided by the Sports Ground Safety Authority, as well as transport and food and drink guidance, at this point in time, the most likely outcome for this year’s Championships, as an outdoor venue, is a reduced number of spectators within the Grounds. However, we are taking every step to remain as flexible as possible to ensure we are able to react to changing circumstances that may allow an increase or require a decrease in attendance, both ahead of and during the Wimbledon Fortnight.

For this reason, we want to ensure that we can leave decisions on public capacity as late as we can in order to welcome the maximum number of guests, and manage our ticket distribution accordingly. As a result, rather than risk ongoing uncertainty and disappointment this year, we intend to give everyone who was successful in the Wimbledon Public Ballot, and paid for their tickets in 2020, the opportunity to purchase tickets to The Championships 2022 for the same day and court, subject of course to the regulations and guidance prevailing at the relevant time. This is in order to ensure, as far as reasonably possible, a fair and equal opportunity for all these individuals to attend The Championships. For the same reasons the LTA will not be holding their ballot for tickets to The Championships this year, but will be providing an online platform for ticket sales in June.

In addition, given the likelihood of continued social distancing requirements and with consideration for the health and safety of all the public, there will not be a Queue or Ticket Resale in operation for this year’s Championships. Both the Queue and Ticket Resale remain much-loved and important Wimbledon traditions, and we look forward to their return in 2022. In the absence of the Queue, the Wimbledon Public Ballot and the LTA Ballot this year, tickets for the public to attend The Championships 2021 will be made available online and we anticipate this will begin in June.

In line with UK Government and public health guidance, we are also putting in place a series of infection control measures. One of the priority measures is to create a minimised risk environment for the players. As such, based on current guidance, there will be official hotels for all players, their support teams, and key groups such as officials, which will be a mandatory requirement for entry into and participation in this year's Championships. We will also not be staging the Invitation Doubles events in 2021, and there will be no Last 8 Club operation on site. At this point in time, we have not been advised that these measures need to include the restriction of spectator movement around the Grounds.

Ian Hewitt, AELTC chairman, commented: “These remain challenging and uncertain times, and our thoughts continue to be with all those affected by the pandemic. Although the promise of a return to a more normal existence is on the horizon, we are not there yet. As such, we have taken some key decisions in order to provide us with some certainty in our planning, and yet also to retain flexibility where we need it the most.

“We remain committed to delivering on our aspiration of staging the best Championships possible. In line with the UK Government’s Roadmap, we are cautiously optimistic that The Championships will play an exciting role as the country begins to embrace a return towards normality. We remain humbled and heartened by the passion for Wimbledon shown by our fans around the world, and we so look forward to seeing the world’s best tennis players setting foot on our courts once again.”

Amidst the planning for this year’s Championships, the AELTC has also begun to embark on a public consultation process for the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project, which refers to the developing proposals for the use of the AELTC’s landholding in Wimbledon Park. The consultation is expected to conclude in June, with a planning application to be submitted in July. Subject to planning, it is envisaged that the project would commence in 2022, with the various aspects of the plan being delivered in sequence, including the staging of Qualifying within the AELTC’s extended Grounds by 2028.