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London | Wimbledon could net £100m payout as LTA staff are furloughed

According to reports in The Times and the Daily Mail, Wimbledon is set to net a £100 million insurance payout after The Championships was cancelled on Wednesday because of the coronavirus crisis.

The insurance will help protect the surplus to an extent, I would say to a large extent. Of course we're fortunate to have the insurance and it helps, but it doesn't solve all the problems. The details and the figure probably won't be known for months. Richard Lewis

The All England Club’s insurance policy, thought to be in the region of £1.5m a year, was updated in 2003 after organisers asked for a virus-related clause to be inserted following concerns over the SARS outbreak.

According to the Times, Wimbledon will now see its insurance triggered by the cancellation, with the clause that covers infectious diseases set to be worth as much as £100m.

The exact amount of the pay-out will earn from the policy remains unclear with the organising costs and the prize money, to the tune of £40m, to be considered as deductions following the cancellation, while the event was set to bring in around £250m in revenue.

This marks the first time since the Second World War that the grass court Grand Slam tournament will not go ahead as planned.

The AELTC apparently is the only Grand Slam to have an insurance policy that includes a virus-related clause.

It is reported that the French Tennis Federation, who opted to postpone the French Open until September,  felt they had no option to cancel Roland Garros because of the risk of incurring a loss of £230m.

The AELTC’s outgoing Chief Executive Richard Lewis warned that, despite the insurance policy, Wimbledon would sustain a financial hit, although the knock-on effect for British tennis would be limited.

“The insurance will help protect the surplus to an extent, I would say to a large extent,” he said.

“Of course we’re fortunate to have the insurance and it helps, but it doesn’t solve all the problems. The details and the figure probably won’t be known for months.”

Spectators moving around the grounds

Getty Images

The LTA, which held a teleconference for all its staff on Thursday, relies on its annual handout from The Championships’ surplus, worth around £40m, and some staff at Roehampton are now expected to be furloughed.

Sportsmail reported that holding Wimbledon behind closed doors would still have involved having at least 5,000 people working at the All England Club, an idea rejected before the whole tournament called off on Wednesday.

A scaled down version of the competition was also considered, but quickly dismissed as impractical.

The sheer number of personnel required to stage any major modern sporting event shows why so many showpieces have had to be abandoned early, with The Open golf the latest in line to go.

In the case of Wimbledon everyone from ball-kids to TV technicians to coaches would have been on site, even without spectators.

The decision to axe the sport’s oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam event due to the coronavirus pandemic followed the French Open’s unilateral switch from its traditional May-June slot to September-October.

The double body blow resulted in the entire clay court and grass court seasons being abandoned.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that there may be no more tennis this year,” said Lewis.

“But I would like to think that things will settle down so that tournaments can be played sooner rather than later. Who knows what will happen?”

Lewis told the Guardian that, despite his fears, he hoped that the season’s next Grand Slam, the US Open in August-September could take place.

“Let’s hope the US Open and Roland Garros [rescheduled to start in Paris a week after the final of the US Open in New York] can take place,” he added.

“The optimist in me – and I am often not optimistic – still hopes the American hard-court season [in August], the big tournaments, the Masters and the Premiers, will take place: Montreal, Toronto and then Cincinnati.

“One hopes that things might have settled down a bit.”

Lewis also revealed that he feared Wimbledon was in doubt some time ago.

“Since the middle of February I had been thinking that the Championships were 50-50, and as events unfolded it was clear that society and Britain and the world in general had much greater problems to deal with,” he said.

Lewis added that any plans to financially help less well-off players and other workers in tennis were at a very early stage.

Although cutbacks are in the air at the LTA, one suggestion worth considering, providing the situation improves in the UK ahead of international travel restrictions being lifting, is a one-off revival of the British national championships.

The event, last staged in 2002, could offer a competitive opportunity and some prize money for hard-pressed players, a chance of work for officials and some much-needed profile for the game.



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