Wimbledon officials are edging closer to cancelling this summer’s Wimbledon Championships for the first time since the Second World War.
A decision will be taken at an emergency meeting of the All England Club board next week.
This year’s Wimbledon Championships have so far survived the cull of the world’s most prestigious sporting events due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it seems only a matter of time before they are postponed or cancelled.
With London in its first week of lockdown, All England Lawn Tennis Club officials are weighing their limited options.
There is a growing urge by some members to be decisive on this rather than letting uncertainty over the tournament rumble on. Playing behind closed doors has been ruled out and other scenarios, including cancellation and postponement, are being closely considered.
The ‘build up’ for the June 29-July 12 championships is supposed to start in little over a month but it seems increasingly likely that Wimbledon will be forced to miss a year for the first time since 1945.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club said in a statement on Wednesday that it “has been contingency planning since January, working closely with the UK government and public health authorities to follow their advice and understand the likely impact of Covid-19”.
“Based on the advice we have received from the public health authorities, the very short window available to us to stage The Championships due to the nature of our surface suggests that postponement is not without significant risk and difficulty,” it added.
The Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, was completed before the coronavirus crisis exploded to virtually shut down world sport, including the men’s ATP Tour and women’s WTA Tour.
The French Open last week made the decision to move the claycourt tournament to September 20-October 4 from its May start. While the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday potentially opened a two-week slot in July/August, it would appear unlikely Wimbledon would use it.
Switching to a later time is even less likely as Wimbledon has two covered courts and elite outdoor grasscourt tennis is not feasible past late summer.
Wimbledon said it is communicating closely with the LTA, and with the ATP, WTA, ITF and the other Grand Slams. “The unprecedented challenge presented by the Covid-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined,” All England Lawn Tennis Club’s chief executive Richard Lewis said.
If Wimbledon is cancelled, those who have already been allocated tickets through the ballot are assured of refunds.
Roger Federer has become the latest sports star to make a significant financial contribution to those affected by the pandemic. The 20-time Grand-Slam champion and his wife Mirka have pledged 1 million Swiss francs (about £860,000) “for the most vulnerable families in Switzerland”.