Wimbledon reveals major change amid monster $320m virus payout

Wimbledon organisers announced that the traditional day of rest in the middle of the tournament would be scrapped from 2022 as they fine-tune plans for this year’s event, at the same time revealing the size of its payout after last year’s tournament was cancelled.

Wimbledon’s decision to take out pandemic insurance — reportedly costing about $AUD2.5 million a year — paid off to the tune of just over $320m, covering losses when coronavirus forced the 2020 event to be abandoned.

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Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that has a day off during the fortnight but the usual “middle Sunday” rest day provides scheduling challenges, particularly when there is bad weather in the first week.

At the tournament’s spring press briefing, All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said developments in the care of grass courts meant 14 consecutive days of play was now deemed possible and there was no need for a pause in the action.

The change means fourth-round matches, which have all been played on a packed day known as “manic Monday”, will be held across two days.

“That second Monday was popular with many people but it did create significant challenges,” said Hewitt. “I am not sure if it did full justice to that day’s tennis and we feel spreading it over two days does it more justice.

“I think it is important for the development of the sport that Wimbledon should be even more accessible to those who wish to watch it.”

We won’t see a packed centre court this year.Source:Getty Images

England is on track to drop all COVID restrictions on June 21 after a successful vaccination drive, with Wimbledon due to start the following week.

Organisers are planning for a minimum spectator capacity of 25 per cent at the event in southwest London, with the hope that this can be increased. Tickets are expected to go on sale in June.

“The reality we are dealing with is how to deliver a tournament under today’s (government) guidance,” said All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton.

“June 21 is a not-before date and as you can imagine it would be reckless to plan a tournament when one does not know what the conditions are going to be after that.

“We are planning the tournament as of what today’s conditions are but also capable of showing flexibility and agility if they change.”

Bolton did not rule out allowing spectators on the famous Henman Hill, saying there was a way of making sure fans were socially distanced.

Players and a maximum of three guests will be obliged to stay in official hotels this year, even though many traditionally prefer to stay in rented private accommodation.

“I would say restrictions imposed on international travellers are more comparable for the players than freedoms from June 21 for the UK population,” said Bolton.

“I think players, albeit somewhat frustrated in bubbles, are well used to understanding the restriction are there as to protect them and that country’s citizens.”

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