The announcement from Wimbledon began: “It is with great regret that the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic. The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021.”
This feels like an April Fool’s Day joke but sadly it is not.
As much as this was expected, the shock value has not been lessened to any degree. The cancellation of Wimbledon is the biggest sport cancellation as a result of COVID-19. The Olympics by comparison have been suspended for a year and not cancelled.
This year’s Championships would have been the 75th continuous tournament having only previously been cancelled for war. The only times a Wimbledon meeting was not held was in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 (the 39th Championships) and then again from 1940 to 1945 inclusive (the 60th Championships).
Ian Hewitt, the brand new Chairman of the AELTC who would have been presiding over his first Championships, said: “This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen.
“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.
“Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”
The All England Club was in consultation with the ATP, WTA, ITF and the LTA (the UK’s national body) before the decision was made to cancel.
Financially the revenue loss from the Wimbledon cancellation would have been £250million but the Club is likely to be shielded from the worst effect because it took out a special insurance costing in the low seven figures which protects them. Sure, there will be a revenue loss from merchandise along with food and beverage sales, but the impact can be easily ridden out.
While the main tournament is staged over two weeks (this year the dates would have been 29 June to 12 July), what can’t be forgotten is the week before is the qualifying event but also the fact that the lock down in the UK makes it incredibly difficult for preparation and building work which begins in April each year, that is crucial and unavoidable in an effort to stage the event.
The AELTC had been working on contingency plans since January this year. The No.1 priority with this decision was given to health and safety of all of those that are part of Wimbledon happening – from the public in the UK and from around the world to the players, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors and local residents.
Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic will remain defending champions for an additional year.