Wimbledon defends decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players amid Ukraine war: ‘There is no alternative’

·3-min read
Banned: World No2 Daniil Medvedev is among the most high-profile players to be affected by the suspension of Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon (Getty Images)
Banned: World No2 Daniil Medvedev is among the most high-profile players to be affected by the suspension of Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon (Getty Images)

Wimbledon organisers have defended the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at this year’s tournament.

The All England Club said that allowing players from both nations amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine – even with written declarations stating their anti-war sentiment – still risked benefitting “the propaganda machine of the Russian regime”. It also said it potentially brought risks to the lives of the players and their families in signing such a declaration.

Wimbledon made the decision to halt Russian and Belarusian players from competing last week, and revealed it had come off the back of Government advice in response to the war in Ukraine.

Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The decision means the absence of the likes of men’s world No2 Daniil Medvedev, who hails from Russia, and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, the current world No4 on the WTA Tour.

Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said: “We believe this is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interests of tennis alone. Government, industry, sport and creative institutions are all playing their part in efforts to limit Russia’s global influence.

“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.

“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.

Russia's Daniil Medvedev (AP)
Russia's Daniil Medvedev (AP)

“We understand and deeply regret the impact this decision will have on every individual affected - and so many innocent people are suffering as a result of this terrible war. 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.”

Hewitt and Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton said the tournament had held discussions with the affected players but would not be drawn on whether they were willing to sign a declaration against the war in order to play.

At present, the ban applies to players and not currently to any support staff from Russia or Belarus, although discussions are ongoing over that stance with Government officials between now and the tournament. No Russian media will be permitted to apply for accreditation to cover the event.

A general view outside Court No.1 at Wimbledon (Getty Images)
A general view outside Court No.1 at Wimbledon (Getty Images)

Both the ATP and WTA have condemned Wimbledon’s stance over Russian and Belarusian players, and have it in their remit to remove ranking points from SW19 and other grasscourt tournaments over the ban.

Of that possible threat, Bolton said: “We won’t be speculating on what may or may not take place in the future. We are continuing to talk to the tours on a day-to-day basis. We continue to make the case for the decision we’ve made. The tours understand how difficult this decision has been for us to take. We are in a unique set of circumstances under the Government guidance.”

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