Wimbledon cannot be protected by pandemic insurance in 2021

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Empty Wimbledon centre court - AELTC/Bob Martin/PA Wire
Empty Wimbledon centre court - AELTC/Bob Martin/PA Wire

Next year’s Wimbledon will not be protected by pandemic insurance, according to outgoing chief executive Richard Lewis.

The All England Club’s imperturbable image has scarcely been dented by the cancellation of this year’s tournament – which would have started on Monday – thanks to the foresight of those who spent a seven-figure sum on an insurance package against communicable disease. This investment should also allow the Lawn Tennis Association – which received £52 million from the All England Club in its last published accounts – to get away without slashing budgets too alarmingly over the coming months.​

But Lewis confirmed that the same trick could not be performed next summer.​

“That’s impossible in the current climate,” he explained. “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.​

“In the immediate aftermath, you can’t get insurance, but fairly soon after that, 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.”​

Wimbledon’s turnover would normally be in excess of £250 million. A long-term agreement with the LTA states that, after operating costs and facility investment, 90 per cent of the annual surplus is forwarded into British tennis.​

Asked for more details, Lewis said: “There are over 10 insurance companies involved in the claim, and we’re probably about a third of the way through. It will take two or three months to work through but I’m optimistic that the surplus will be pretty well protected and therefore the impact will be somewhat minimised.”​

The All England Club will now be able to watch as the year’s two remaining majors – the US Open and the postponed French Open – attempt to maintain biosecurity.​

The recent fiasco of Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour underlines what can go wrong when young athletes feel invulnerable, but Lewis – who last week said that “the images [from the Balkans] were disappointing” – hopes that responsible behaviour will be the norm by the time next year’s Wimbledon comes around.​

“Of course it is a challenge with the young generation, and tennis players are no different,” said Lewis. “But 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 new normal. I think that will be a great strength in 2021 compared to how it unfolded in 2020.”

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