All England Club chairman defends banning Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon

·2-min read

All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt says the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from Wimbledon was the "most responsible decision possible in the circumstances."

Organisers of the grass-court grand slam confirmed this month that players from both nations would be barred from featuring in the tournament due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was met by a significant backlash, with world number eight Andrey Rublev describing the decision as "discrimination" and Novak Djokovic stating he could not support it.

But speaking at the 2022 Wimbledon media briefing, Hewitt sought to clarify the process by which the decision was made.

"After lengthy and careful consideration we came to two firm conclusions that have formed the basis for our decision," he told reporters.

"First, even if we were to accept entries from Russia 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 of players or their families at risk."

All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) chief executive Sally Bolton shed further light on the process of making such an "an immensely difficult decision."

"We recognise that whatever decision we took would be setting a precedent," she added.

"We made our judgement in the scale of the response to an international war, the consequences of which reach far wider than the sport of tennis.

"We appreciate that this is an immensely difficult decision, and that people have different views which we respect and understand.

"We are deeply regretful of the impact that this will have on every single player who is affected.

"We are in ongoing dialogue with the players, with the tours, with the ITF and with our fellow grand slams, and will continue to work with them over the coming weeks.

"We believe that this decision is the only viable option for Wimbledon."

Wimbledon also confirmed that players who have not received a coronavirus vaccination will be allowed to enter the tournament.

Djokovic hit the headlines when he was unable to play in the Australian Open this year after being deported due to his vaccination status.

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