LONDON: Russian and Belarusian players will be able to compete at Wimbledon as neutral athletes after the All England Club on Friday reversed its ban from last year.
The players must sign declarations of neutrality and comply with “appropriate conditions,” including not expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted,” All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.
The players cannot receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by the states.
Those impacted include Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.
Other tennis tournaments have allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral athletes.
“We also consider the alignment between the Grand Slams to be increasingly important in the current tennis environment,” the club said.
The same conditions will apply for Lawn Tennis Association tournaments used by players as grass-court warmups for the sport’s oldest Grand Slam tournament.
The women’s and men’s professional tennis tours last year imposed heavy fines on the LTA and threatened to pull its tournaments. The ATP and WTA had also responded to last year’s ban by not awarding ranking points for Wimbledon — an unprecedented move against the prestigious event.
“There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, The Championships and British tennis,” the club said.
This year’s Wimbledon tournament will start on July 3. The women’s final is scheduled for July 15 and the men’s final is on July 16.
The All England Club said the conditions were developed through talks with the British government, the LTA and “international stakeholder bodies in tennis.”
The club’s statement described “personal player declarations” but didn’t provide details. The LTA said the players and support staff “will be required to sign neutrality declarations” similar to those used in other sports.