Wimbledon has become the latest big sporting event to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic this week.
Organisers made the final decision at an emergency board meeting, with the inevitable outcome reached.
All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said it was a decision made “with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen”.
Here, the PA news agency answers the key questions around what the cancellation of Wimbledon means.
Although Wimbledon was not due to start until June 29, preparations for the tournament would have needed to have begun in earnest at the end of April, requiring significant numbers of people on site. Given the size and global nature of the event, pressing ahead while much of the world is in forms of lockdown, and likely to remain that way for a number of weeks, would have been out of step with both Government guidelines and the public mood.
Since the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877, there have only been 10 years where it has not been held, all of them due to war. Since 1946, Wimbledon has been staged every year.
Wimbledon is well placed because it has insurance to cover a pandemic, although the PA news agency understands the policy specifies things it will cover and those it may not. The Lawn Tennis Association’s annual surplus – which exceeded £40million in 2018, the most recent year for which accounts are publicly available – is covered.
The Wimbledon fortnight is the biggest of the year for local businesses like hotels, restaurants and bars. With those employers already forced to close to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the cancellation of Wimbledon represents another huge blow. PA understands Wimbledon are looking into ways to offer support.
Wimbledon said on Wednesday that members of the public who paid for tickets in the ballot would have their tickets refunded and be offered the chance to purchase replacements for the same day and same court in 2021.
Tennis fans will already be starting to wonder whether a knock-on effect of a cancellation could be that the likes of Roger Federer, Venus Williams and Serena Williams have played at SW19 for the last time. Federer and Serena will both be nearly 40 next summer and Venus will be 41. It has been a hugely special tournament for all three, so they will surely do everything they can to be there in 2021.
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