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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ellie Ng

Decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players back is ‘right’

PA Wire

The chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said allowing Russian and Belarusian players back into the Wimbledon tournament was “the right decision”.

Last year’s ban saw the ATP and WTA strip Wimbledon of ranking points, while the Lawn Tennis Association was heavily fined for taking the same stance and threatened with having its grass-court events removed.

This year, organisers felt they could not maintain their approach.

All of those athletes are competing as neutrals, they’ve all signed the declaration
— Sally Bolton, AELTC chief executive

AELTC chief executive Sally Bolton told reporters on the media balcony in the south-west London grounds on Monday that it was a “difficult decision”.

But she added: “We think it’s the right decision for the championships this year.

“All of those athletes are competing as neutrals. They’ve all signed the declaration.”

When prompted, she said the declarations had “all gone really smoothly”.

The tournament has banned people from bringing into the grounds Russian or Belarusian flags and associated imagery, political statements, symbols, images, insignia or emblems.

Ms Bolton also said that none of the AELTC’s broadcast pictures will be going into either country and no merchandise will be sold there.

Organisers have assisted Ukrainian players with accommodation and practice facilities and have invited 1000 refugees from the country to the tournament.

Ms Bolton also told reporters that £1 from every person who attends the championships this year will be donated to the Ukrainian effort via the Red Cross – which should amount to £500,000 with full attendance.

Ukrainian player Elina Svitolina, who will face Venus Williams on Monday, thanked Wimbledon organisers for their support of Ukraine despite the decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete this year.

On Wimbledon’s U-turn, she said: “I was happy that they made this decision (last year) because we were fighting for this as Ukrainians, just trying to speak with the organisations, with the WTA, ATP, ITF to explain why other sports made the decision to ban them and tennis didn’t.

“We were really thankful to Wimbledon. We know the pressure was there from the organisations (to reverse the ban) and it was quite expected. We had to accept it but we’re really thankful still for the support.  They help us with accommodation. They help us in so many different ways.”

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