Wimbledon defends ‘tough and agonising’ decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players this summer following the invasion of Ukraine… as organisers dismiss Andrey Rublev’s ‘discrimination’ claim
- Russian and Belarusian tennis players are banned from playing at Wimbledon
- It comes due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine which started in February
- Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, defended the move on Tuesday
- He explained that it is not ‘discrimination’ and they had ‘no viable alternative’
Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said there was ‘no viable alternative’ following Government sanctions that only allowed them to compete on the ATP and WTA Tours under a neutral flag and with no anthem played.
Wimbledon is an individual tournament and as one of four Grand Slams has stuck to its decision to ban those players entirely – which means star names like world No 2 Daniil Medvedev will be ineligible .
‘The UK Government has set out directive guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence,’ Hewitt explained at Tuesday’s spring briefing.
‘We have considered at length the options available.
‘These are in effect two options: declining entries or allowing entries but only with specific declarations (against the invasion of Ukraine) from individual players.
‘We considered a wide variety of factors. After lengthy and careful consideration, we came to two firm conclusions.
‘Even if we were to accept entries (from Russian and Belarusian players) with written declarations, we would risk their success or participation being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which we could not accept.’
Wimbledon is standing firm on a decision to ban Russian and Belarussian players this summer
Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev hit out at Wimbledon’s ban and called it ‘discrimination’
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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 on a daily basis to discuss concessions, such as the potential for a rankings freeze for affected players.
Chief executive Sally Bolton said: ‘We won’t be speculating on what may or may not happen in the future.
‘We continue to make the case for why we have made the decision we have made and the unique set of circumstances we find ourselves in here in the UK. They absolutely appreciate that.’
Bolton also revealed that discussions are ongoing with the government regarding Russian coaches and other officials, while Russian media outlets will also be banned.
Hewitt refuted the idea that there was the potential to allow Russian and Belarusian players the chance to play should they sign a written declaration against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
‘We have a duty to ensure no actions should put players or their families at risk,’ Hewitt added.
‘We understand and deeply regret the impact this will have on all the people affected.
‘We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible.
‘We believe (given Government guidance) there is no viable alternative in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.’
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev will have to sit out of Wimbledon having been barred from playing
Victoria Azarenka is another who can’t compete at SW19 due to her Belarusian nationality
A furious Rublev called on Wimbledon to reverse their decision and instead donate the prize money to help those affected by the war in Ukraine.
‘The reasons they gave us had no sense, they were not logical,’ Rublev told the AFP news agency at the Serbia Open in Belgrade last week.
‘What is happening now is complete discrimination against us.’
Rublev, who shortly after the war started in February appealed for peace when he signed a camera lens with ‘no war please’ in Dubai, added: ‘Banning Russian or Belarusian players will not change anything.
‘To give all the prize money (which last year totalled £35million), would have a more positive effect to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that would do something.
‘Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport who donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory.’
More to follow.