The All England Club has been praised for having the foresight to insure Wimbledon against a pandemic, however, the 2021 Championships will not be covered.
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II this year amid the coronavirus outbreak but is in a comparatively rosy financial position to other sporting events across the globe after taking out a £1.5million-a-year insurance policy.
However, All England Club CEO Richard Lewis confirmed that they will not be in the same position next year, should The Championships be called off again.
‘No that’s impossible [to get pandemic insurance] in the current climate,’ Lewis said this week ahead of what would have been the 2020 tournament’s start on Monday.
‘What I would say about the future though is that when I first started in 2012, there were some signs that things were not insurable, because of communicable diseases that had taken place like SARS and swine flu.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
‘In the immediate aftermath you can’t get insurance but fairly soon after that, you can start to get insurance again, the market returns. So there won’t be insurance next year, but I think in the medium term, just because we’ve made one claim it won’t affect us in the long term.’
Figures have been bandied around regarding how much the insurance payout will be – and how much of the annual surplus, of which £52.1million was given to the Lawn Tennis Association last year to support British tennis, will be covered – but Lewis insists there is no set figure yet.
‘We genuinely don’t know the numbers,’ he added. ‘We haven’t even got to our financial year-end yet, that’s the end of July, and it will take two or three months to work through the rest of the insurance claim and also to work through the final numbers so we won’t know until the end of the year.
‘But I’m optimistic that the surplus will be pretty well protected and therefore the impact – nobody wants to cancel, nobody wants to make an insurance claim – but the impact will be somewhat minimised.’
The ‘big claim’, which is subject to commercial confidentiality, has proven a useful safety net for Wimbledon organisers – something the United States Tennis Association and French Tennis Federation have not been able to fall back on as they push ahead with the US Open and Roland Garros in the coming months.
But the policy alone, Lewis insists, is not the reason why the grass-court tournament was cancelled.
‘I think I emphasised it when we cancelled: we cancelled because we had to cancel. There was absolutely no ifs nor buts,’ said Lewis.
‘The fact we had insurance was incidental in the sense it’s then triggered once you make the decision to cancel. I think there will be a lot learnt between now and next year from a scientific point of view, behavioural point of view, organisational point of view that will be very different from this year.
‘I don’t think the insurance aspect will be relevant. It genuinely wasn’t relevant this year. If we could have staged The Championships in some shape or form then we would have done.
‘I think next year the lack of insurance, again, Wimbledon will do what’s right for The Championships long term, not take a short-term decision.’
The US Open, which starts in late August, will go ahead without fans in New York.
Come next June, Wimbledon chiefs – who are ‘looking at ways in which we can say thank you to the NHS and other key workers’ – will hope to be able to welcome fans to the All England Club but given ongoing uncertainty around the world, it’s no guarantee.
‘Of course, it is our absolute wish that next year’s Championship look like a Championship that we would all recognise,’ Sally Bolton, the incoming CEO who will replace Lewis in August, said.
‘Of course, that is all our wish. It’s too early to say at this point what it will look like and how we will respond to the situation and restrictions in place at the time.
‘As was the case in the decision to cancel this year’s Championship, the health and safety of our spectators, players, guests and staff will be absolutely at the forefront of any decisions we make. It’s too early to say yet.
‘But the principles and the way in which we approach this year will be very much front of mind when we look ahead to next year at the appropriate time.
‘Of course, we’ve got the US Open and Roland Garros being staged later this year, and we will be looking closely at what they do, working with the constraints they find themselves are under, and learning what we can. But it is far too early to start predicting what the situation will be like, and planning in detail for that.’
The coronavirus outbreak at Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour has left some nervous regarding the resumption of international tennis.
The US Open hopes that player isolation bubbles will reduce the chances of a spread, but it still requires players to be on their best behaviour during their time at Flushing Meadows.
As far as Wimbledon is concerned, however, Lewis suspects ‘habits’ will have been formed by that stage that minimises any risk.
‘Of course it is a challenge with the young generation and tennis players are no different,’ added Lewis.
‘But I do think that one of the things that will be different next year compared to this year, unfortunately, is that we will be much more used to it.
‘And people will have got into habits. So it won’t just be about discipline in whatever environment the tournament is being staged and the protocols in place, but I think people will also have created habits as a result of Covid 19.
‘And habits have already changed over the last few months and I am sure by this time next year, people will be much more into, the phrase is new normal isn’t it, into the new normal. And I think that will be a great strength in 2021 compared to how it unfolded in 2020.’
For more stories like this, check our sport page.