DThe lush greens at Wimbledon’s time-honored All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) are among the most mythical places in the sports world. This is why many a tennis heart bleeds when the “holy lawn” suffers in the course of the famous tournament and at least declines to brown dust deserts at the baseline. This year, however, the places on London’s Church Road, which are always cultivated with British dedication, will remain largely unaffected. The tennis tournament in Wimbledon has been canceled. The corona crisis has claimed its next prominent victim.
“With great regret,” the AELTC announced late Wednesday afternoon that the tournament could not be held in peacetime for the first time since it was founded in 1877. Previously, only the two world wars had caused breaks in the almost 150-year history of the tournament. Now it is “the best possible decision in the interest of public health,” the message said. It was also important that the painful rejection “now and not only in a few weeks” takes place in order to give planning security to everyone involved in the preparations and the tournament. “We didn’t make this decision easy,” said club chairman Ian Hewitt.
With the ultimately consistent cancellation, Wimbledon is pursuing a completely different strategy than the French Open recently. Two weeks ago, the Paris tournament directorate had more or less arbitrarily postponed their tournament, which was planned for the end of May to early June, and had to put up with a lot of criticism. The French willingly accepted possible collisions with other events and tournaments without having coordinated with them. It was an act of self-centered self-rescue in times of global solidarity. A failure of the tournament would cause the French Open, which has had a costly structural upgrade in Roland Garros in recent years, to face massive financial difficulties. The Finance Director of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Lionel Maltese, said in an interview with L’Equipe that a cancellation would simply “fly away” with 260 million euros. This “catastrophe” should therefore be prevented at all costs.
Is Wimbledon insured against the failure?
That Wimbledon may take a different path, or rather take it, could also have a financial background. Various British media recently reported that Londoners are one of the few major sporting events in the world to have taken out insurance that also applies to a pandemic. According to the analyzes of those responsible in the past few days, the policy would cover the reimbursements due to cancellation to ticket owners and to the broadcasting TV stations. The AELTC would only have to accept the loss of revenue from the sale of merchandising articles and the sale of food and beverages on the tournament site.
For the economically more than solidly positioned club, these losses are obviously manageable. However, the tournament organizers did not want to officially confirm the corresponding insurance upon request. Last week, the Wimbledon organizers had spoken very openly about the possible scenarios for the tournament and announced a special session. The tournament officials categorically excluded the “ghost event” without spectators.
They also pointed out that a shift “due to the nature of our subsurface is not without an increased risk”. There would only be an “extremely small time window available”. After all, the lawn is particularly susceptible to the weather compared to the other surfaces of the tennis season. In rainy months, the ground becomes too slippery to play tennis on. In addition, the lighting conditions on the fast surface are of particular importance. Too little sunshine can make it impossible to host a tournament. In the wake of the cancellation of the undisputed highlight in Wimbledon, the rest of the lawn season now falls completely into the water. The player organizations ATP and WTA as well as the world association ITF extended their game breaks until July 13th. This means that the hot German tennis month of June is at least postponed to next year. With the men’s tournaments in Stuttgart and Halle / Westphalia as well as the women’s events in Berlin and Bad Homburg, four preparatory events for Wimbledon should actually take place in Germany for the first time this year. Instead, they too have now become victims of the pandemic. Only the lawn should be happy.