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Wimbledon One Week Away From Cancellation

By Alix Ramsay

Wimbledon is days away from being the next major international sporting event to be cancelled.

At the moment, everything is still to be decided but one fact is set in concrete: Wimbledon 2020 will not be played behind closed doors. Either people are allowed to watch or it simply won’t happen.

At a little after 6pm GMT on Wednesday, March 25, Wimbledon released this statement:

“The AELTC can confirm that it is continuing a detailed evaluation of all scenarios for The Championships 2020, including postponement and cancellation, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The AELTC 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 and the government’s emergency measures on The Championships, and our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis at this time.

“An emergency meeting of the AELTC Main Board is scheduled for next week, and in preparation we are communicating closely with the LTA, and with the ATP, WTA, ITF and the other Grand Slams. The build for The Championships is due to begin at the end of April.

“At this time, 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. Playing behind closed doors has been formally ruled out.

“Following the government’s advice, the AELTC’s sites at the All England Club, Wimbledon Park Golf Club and Raynes Park are currently closed with physical operations reduced to the practical minimum to maintain the grass courts and the security of the sites.

“The AELTC, through our charity the Wimbledon Foundation, is offering support within our local communities and more broadly for the London and UK population through our partnerships with the British Red Cross and City Harvest.

“Richard Lewis CBE, AELTC Chief Executive, commented: “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 AELTC Main Board for next week, at which a decision will be made.”

Basically, then, Wimbledon is ready to pull the plug next week. With the UK in near lockdown, this is not a surprise. When the Olympics went were called off on Tuesday, it did not seem possible that Wimbledon – scheduled to end just 12 days before the start of the Games – could go ahead. Now, it seems, Wimbledon is easing the way to following every other sporting event and authority and cancelling their event.

The UK has just started its first three weeks of lockdown. The government will reassess the situation after that and could then impose longer and more draconian measures to ensure the safety of the population. With every non-essential business closed down and infection rates rising, it seems implausible that a tennis event, however big, could be allowed to go ahead.

Wimbledon doesn’t do screaming headlines; Wimbledon does gentle ushering in of harsh reality. That is just their way. If you have a spare fiver, put it on Wimbledon being cancelled as of next week.

It’s going to be a long old summer.

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