Wimbledon lifts ban on Russian and Belarusian players

Centre Court at Wimbledon.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, announced today that they have lifted the ban they imposed last year on Russian and Belarussian players. Wimbledon has not taken this decision lightly, in fact their hands were forced. The ATP and WTA had threatened to cancel the Lawn Tennis Association’s membership.

The LTA membership being cancelled would have impacted all pre Wimbledon grass court events, including Queens Club, Eastbourne, Nottingham etc. This would have financially damaged LTA and these events, and ran the risk of these events never taking place again.

The AELTC Chairman Ian Hewitt said of the decision “We continue to condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine.”

“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted”

There are conditions to allowing the players entry to the tournament. Conditions include that the players must agree not to support the Russian and Belarusian states, or their regimes and leaders. Players must also not be receiving funding from Russian and Belarusian states. This includes sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by them.

The AELTC and LTA said that whilst they stand by last year’s position, without changing their stance this year, tennis’ two main professional tours, the ATP and WTA would have cancelled the LTA’s membership. In order to compete, players and their support staff from Russia and Wimbledon, will need to sign neutrality declarations to be allowed to take part. Breaking of these declarations will lead to consequences ranging from fines to expulsion from the tournament.

Although not what they wanted to do, the LTA and AELTC had no choice to secure the future of other events. The smaller events rely on LTA funding, membership cancellation of the ATP and WTA would have been disastrous for the build-up events.

Main photo credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports