Russian players ban was result of UK Government directives, All-England Club says

The organisers of Wimbledon have insisted they felt they had no choice but to ban Russian and Belarusian players from their event because of guidance from the UK Government.

The All-England Club (AELTC) was criticized in some quarters last week for announcing that no players or media from Russia or Belarus would be allowed to attend the prestigious grand slam event, which is due to start on Monday 27 June, as a response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Wimbledon is the first individual tournament to have taken such a step, although reports on Monday emerged suggesting that the French government was considering a similar move for next month’s French Open. Russia and Belarus have already been banned from team competitions including the Davis Cup.

However, AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt insisted that the board felt it was left with “no viable alternative” but to ban Russian and Belarusian players.

More from Tennis

Mr Hewitt said: “Within the framework of the Government’s position, there is there is no viable alternative to the decision we have taken in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.”

The Wimbledon board had lengthy conversations with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and several other officials at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DMCS), who publicly called on sporting bodies to ban “individual athletes selected by Russia and Belarus…… including those representing bodies , cities or brands that are effectively representing Russia or Belarus “.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston also suggested asking players to sign a declaration stating that they would not make statements or symbols in support of Vladimir Putin’s regime or the Ukrainian invasion, as well as competing under a neutral flag, but the AELTC decided that would endanger them and their families back home.

“We did consult broadly with the tours and players about their reflections on what the [UK Government] guidance might mean, ”said Sally Bolton, AELTC chief executive.

“So we weren’t considering or reaching the conclusion about that risk in isolation. That was after conversations with the tours and various players, and that’s part of our thinking. “

However, world No 8 Andrey Rublev, who was one of the players consulted, did say that he would be willing to sign such a declaration.

“If there’s a statement that we need to sign, and on top of that to give all the prize money to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that move at least will do something, ”Rublev said last week, calling the decision“ discrimination ”, something the AELTC denied on Tuesday.

“It is not discrimination in the form that is being said,” said Hewitt.

“It is a considered decision being reached as to what is the right and responsible decision in all circumstances.”

Wimbledon may face further challenges to its decision if the ATP and WTA, the two professional tours, decide to withdraw ranking points from the event, as well as the smaller grass-court events running up to the tournament such as Queen’s and Eastbourne.

“We are continuing to talk to the tours on a day-to-day basis at this point,” said Bolton, refusing to rule out the possibility that the professional game could move against one of its landmark tournaments.

“We continue to make the case for why we have made the decision we’ve made and we’ve set out the reasons for that and the unique set of circumstances we find ourselves in here in the UK.

“And what we’re clear from the tours is they absolutely understand how difficult this decision has been for us to make. I’m not going to speculate on what the outcomes might be. “

Follow i sport on Facebook for more tennis news, interviews and features, or listen to the Love Tennis Podcast presented by the‘s James Gray on iTunes, Spotify or just search “Love Tennis” wherever you get your podcasts

Leave a Comment