Great Britain

Wimbledon officially OFF due to coronavirus for first time since WWII as chiefs offer SW19 to NHS fighting pandemic

WIMBLEDON has been called off this summer – one of the highest-profile sporting casualties of the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

For the first time since 1945 – the final year of the Second World War – there will be no Grand Slam event in SW19.

The famous two-week event, which was set to take place on Monday June 29, was cancelled following an emergency board meeting held on teleconference between Wimbledon chiefs.

The decision was made by a committee involving four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman, former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, new chairman Ian Hewitt and ex-player turned sports administrator Debbie Jevans, who was involved in the running of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

It is understood Wimbledon will not suffer financial disaster because they took out an extensive insurance policy that guards against global pandemics.

The club will offer refunds to ticket holders who had hoped to be eating strawberries and cream in three months’ time.

The 13.5-acre All England Club grounds (which swells to 42 acres when car parks are included) will now be opened up for the use of the NHS.

This is the first time since 1945 that one of the four tennis majors has been axed.

There was no Australian Open in 1986 but that was because it was purposefully moved from a November slot to January 1987 instead.

Wimbledon were left with little choice because there is no guarantee that mass gathering rules will be lifted by the government come late June.

Holding the event behind closed doors was never an option according to the AELTC.

And regardless of fans, it takes more than 500 people to hold the event when you consider the number of players, officials, ballkids, locker-room attendants, caterers and security personnel involved.

Also there is an element of public perception. How could Wimbledon go ahead, with punters sipping champagne and food, as there are huge numbers of people dying across the country with COVID-19?

Nobody knows the health of the nation next month let alone in June and July.

Though the build for the Championships does not start in earnest until the end of April, Wimbledon bosses wanted to act decisively and not be accused of responding slowly like the IOC.

Though the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were postponed by 12 months, it was extremely difficult for Wimbledon to move anywhere else in the tennis calendar.

Doubles star Jamie Murray said it was difficult to postpone the event later in the summer because of the diminishing daylight across the capital.

The decision also means ATP and WTA events at Queen’s, Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne have also been canned.

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