London, April 26 (IANS) The All England Lawn Tennis Association chairperson, Ian Hewitt reiterated the reasons for banning Russian and Belarusian players from competing at this year’s Wimbledon.
Hewitt said that it was an exceedingly difficult decision to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to this year’s Wimbledon, starting from June 27.
“We believe this is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interests of tennis alone. Russia’s ongoing invasion and the catastrophic harm to millions of lives taking place in Ukraine have been condemned worldwide by over 140 nations. Government, industry, sport and creative institutions are all playing their part in efforts to limit Russia’s global influence including any benefit from trade, cultural, or sporting shows of strength,” Hewitt said in a statement on Tuesday.
He said there was ‘no viable alternative’ following British Government sanctions that only allowed them to compete on the ATP and WTA Tours under a neutral flag and with no anthem played.
“As part of that response, the UK Government has set out directional guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK, with the specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence. We have taken that directional guidance into account, as we must as a high-profile event and leading British institution. For clarity, it does not allow for automatic entry to Wimbledon based on rankings alone.
“Even if we were to accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players with written declarations, we would risk their success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime — which we could not accept. Second, we have a duty to ensure that no actions we take should put the safety or welfare of players, or their families, at risk,” he said.
Hewitt said the All England Lawn Tennis understands that this decision will have on every individual affected — and so many innocent people are suffering as a result of this terrible war.
“But, bound to act, we believe we have made the most responsible decision possible in the circumstances, and there is no viable alternative within the framework of the Government’s position to the decision we have taken in this truly exceptional and tragic situation,” he said.
Russian world No. 8 Andrey Rublev accused the All England Club of ‘complete discrimination’, a claim dismissed in its totality by Hewitt.
Both the ATP and WTA Tours have been indignant over the ban but are said to be in talks with the All England Club daily to discuss concessions, such as the potential for a rankings freeze for affected players.