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finance

British tennis will survive losses caused by Wimbledon cancellation, says CEO


It will take Wimbledon several months to recoup losses from the cancelled championships – which were due to begin on Monday – according to the outgoing chief executive, Richard Lewis, but there will be minimal impact on the finances of the game in Britain.

The former Davis Cup player said the All England Club’s finance department is going through its claim with more than 10 insurance companies. “I have seen speculative figures and I don’t recognise any of them,” he said, referring to one estimate of a claim for £114m when the club cancelled in April, for the first time since the second world war.

“It is too soon – even if there wasn’t commercial confidentiality – to give you a figure. It’s looked at line by line: every cost, expenditure, bit of income, revenue, whether it has to be repaid, all that sort of thing. It is a very time-consuming and laborious process. We have a good relationship with the brokers. It’s going well, but the final outcome won’t be known for several months.”

Lewis, who hands over to Sally Bolton next month after eight years guiding Wimbledon’s ambitious expansion plans, said the annual £40m handout to the Lawn Tennis Association has been largely safeguarded. “It won’t be severely impacted. If you have to cancel, it’s great to have insurance. We’re still in a very good position, which is a slightly strange thing to say when you’ve just cancelled the championships.

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“But we’re financially very stable. In terms of the impact on ourselves as an organisation and business, and the LTA and therefore British tennis, it’s going to be pretty well protected.”

None of the other tournaments took the precaution of insuring against a global virus such as Covid-19, but Lewis says it will not be possible to renew the policy next year. “That’s impossible in the current climate. When I 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, you can, the market returns. So there won’t be insurance next year, but in the medium-term, just because we’ve made one claim, it won’t affect us in the long-term.”

Bolton, who has worked at the club since 2016 and in rugby league for many years before that, is the first woman to be chief executive in the club’s long history – coincidentally taking over at the same time as Stacey Allaster at the US Tennis Association and, closer to home, Clare Connor as president of the MCC.

She said it was too early to say how the club would present next year’s tournament if the virus was still having a global impact, adding: “It is our absolute wish that next year’s championship looks like a championship we would all recognise.” That will mean full crowds, if possible. When the club cancelled in April, holding the tournament behind closed doors was not an option, and that remains the case, it appears.

“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 under and learning what we can.”

Bolton has not spoken to Allaster. “I think she is pretty focused on getting the US Open on at the moment. I plan to catch up with her maybe later in the year.”

They will have much to talk about.



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